Attorney General Eric Holder defended his department and his performance at the Justice Department in congressional testimony Tuesday, even as he faces a vote on a citation for contempt of Congress in just eight days.
Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee at an oversight hearing on his department, Holder pushed back against criticism of his oversight over the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms' "Fast and Furious" program, a botched gun-trafficking investigation.
Holder has also faced fire over his frankness with congressional Republicans - particularly the Republican-controlled House Oversight Committee, which has scheduled a June 20th vote on a contempt of Congress citation against Holder in retaliation for what they see as slow answers to their questions.
Perhaps in response to the wearying criticism, Holder candidly told senators that he is unsure if he will stay on as attorney general if President Obama is re-elected in November.
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, noted that the Justice Department has collected 140,000 pages of documents about the "Fast and Furious" program yet has only given Congress about 7,000 pages.
"That's just a spit in the ocean," Grassley told Holder directly. "This constant stonewalling is why the House Committee is forced to move forward with contempt proceedings."
"I urge the Attorney General to show some leadership and to avoid this Constitutional stand-off and come clean. I think the American people deserve a better explanation than they have received so far," he added.
But Holder defended his deputies, saying that neither they nor he were aware of the Fast and Furious program.
"I am particularly proud of - and grateful for - all that's been achieved by the 116,000 men and women who serve in Justice Department offices around the world," Holder said. "Their dedicated efforts - and those of our government and law enforcement partners at every level - have allowed me to fulfill the commitments that I made during my first appearance before this Committee as Attorney General more than three years ago."
A contempt citation against Holder would be just the fourth time in 30 years that a contempt citation has been issued against such a high-ranking member of the executive branch.
Rep. Darrel Issa, R-Calif., who chairs the House Oversight Committee, has signaled that he is willing to negotiate to avoid a contempt vote, and has released a 62-page memo supporting the citation. Justice officials are also working with Issa's aides to negotiate a compromise.
by RTT Staff Writer
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