News Column

Holder Faces Grilling on AP Phone Records Prying

May 15, 2013
Eric Holder

Eric Holder's appearance before a U.S. House panel Wednesday will reveal how sincere the Obama administration's free speech support is, the panel's chief says.

The 1 p.m. EDT House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing, scheduled weeks ago, will now be a forum for House Republicans to question the U.S. attorney general about the Justice Department's seizure of Associated Press phone records and the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups for extra tax scrutiny, Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said.

Holder said Tuesday his department would open a federal investigation into whether IRS officials broke any criminal laws by singling out the conservative groups. He said he had recused himself from investigating the leak.

Goodlatte said in a statement the department should be involved in protecting free speech, not chilling it.

"Any abridgment of the First Amendment is very concerning, especially reports that the IRS targeted conservative groups for unwarranted scrutiny during an election year," Goodlatte said.

"Members of the committee will also ask pointed questions about the Justice Department's decision to obtain two months worth of telephone records of reporters and editors for the Associated Press," he said. "Congress and the American people expect answers and accountability."

The committee also plans to grill Holder about intelligence-coordination issues tied to the Boston Marathon bombings, Justice Department spending Goodlatte termed "wasteful" and conservative allegations of politicization under Holder, the lawmaker said.

"After the horrific attacks in Boston on Patriots Day, we learned that in the years leading up the attacks several different federal agencies or departments received intelligence about the bombers but failed to connect the dots and share critical information with other agencies," Goodlatte's statement said.

"The attorney general also has some explaining to do regarding wasteful spending at the Justice Department," Goodlatte said, citing "$10,000 pizza parties and the purchase of a new prison when others sit empty."

Source: Copyright UPI 2013

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