By LUKE VARGAS
WASHINGTON (TRNS) – Today the Senate Judiciary Committee picked up where the House left off in last week’s grilling of Attorney General Eric Holder.
The bulk of criticism directed at Holder over the past year has centered on the Department of Justice perceived laggardness in responding to requests for internal documents detailing Department officials’ awareness of techniques used in the botched Fast and Furious “gun walking” operation. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), one of Holder’s sharpest critics, was so displeased with the Attorney General’s testimony last week and Holder’s unwillingness to clear up lingering doubts about the Justice Department’s practices, that he plans to hold a June 20 Contempt of Congress vote on Holder.
Tuesday’s hearing began with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) calling out what he saw as Holder’s repeated “stonewalling” on the Fast and Furious investigation, with the Senator endorsing the Contempt of Congress motions proposed by Issa. The momentum of pressure directed at Holder increased with each successive Republican, as the men passed notes down the line. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) took issue with what he saw as a willingness of the Obama Administration to be forthcoming with information that portrays the administration in a positive light – such as in the leaked classified information on thwarted terrorist attacks and the Osama Bin Laden raid – while hindering the release of sensitive and potentially damning evidence in the Fast and Furious investigation.
“I am very disturbed about the inability to get information on programs that are embarrassing, and the tendency of this administration to tell the whole world about things that are good,” Graham said.
For his part, Holder’s testimony also became more assertive, especially following a grilling by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) that included a call for the Attorney General’s resignation and an accusation of perjury. As Cornyn spoke, Holder largely avoided making eye contact with the Senator, instead referring to notes passed to him by aides and compiling what appeared to be a series of bullet point responses.
Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) preempted Holder’s reply by drawing attention to the seriousness of Coynyn’s criminal accusation, after which Holder passionately moved through his talking points. He led off by characterizing Coynyn’s indictment as “almost breathtaking in its inaccuracies,” culminating in the statement: “I don’t have any intention of resigning.”
Leahy centered his questioning on the over 1,000 voter ID laws introduced in 46 states in recent years, noting proudly that Vermont does not have ID laws on the books and has been able to conduct numerous successful elections.
Holder echoed Leahy’s sentiment on the importance of voting rights legislation, saying: “The arc of American history has always been bending towards the expansion of the franchise, and the question I think we have to ask ourselves – and this is on both sides of the aisle – is, do we want to be the first generation to restrict the ability of American citizens to vote?”
The Attorney General’s words have been backed by action, as news broke yesterday that the Department would be taking legal action against Florida to halt an effort aimed insuring those ineligible to cast a ballot are removed from the voting rolls. In addition, the Department of Justice announced plans last week to send election monitors to South Carolina to oversee compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in that state’s primary election today.
During a downtime between Republican questioning, retiring Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) drew laughs when he inquired about Holder’s plans should President be elected to a second term. Holder replied that “what my future holds, frankly I’m just not sure,” but that he’s “enjoyed” serving as the Attorney General. He conceded, however, that “It’s been a tough job. It is one that takes a lot out of you.”