Eric Holder comes to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for a show of fireworks that could be unlike any seen in this Congress so far.
And if he doesn’t offer the House Judiciary Committee more details on the scandals piling up at the White House’s doorstep than Jay Carney did on Tuesday, the Obama administration is in for another full news cycle of criticism from not only their adversaries on the right but their Democratic allies as well.
It’s a full committee hearing where members of the panel’s Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations Subcommittee will lead the questioning. Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte has outlined an agenda that covers the AP phone-records grab by the Justice Department, the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups, agencies’ failure to share information that might have prevented the Boston bombings, and, as if that were not enough, allegedly lavish spending at DOJ under Holder’s watch.
“This administration is having more ethical lapses and what seems to fall under the heading of scandal than anything I've seen in a long time,” said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., a member of House Judiciary.
Holder tried to get out in front of the hearing, at least on the IRS, announcing that DOJ was opening a criminal inquiry. But on the AP phone records, so far, all the attorney general has offered is that he recused himself from that case.
“Here's what I'd like to see from the representatives of this administration, the cabinet members: Come to a hearing once with the intention of informing the committee,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa., who also sits on Judiciary. “His demeanor I think will be to stall and to weather the ordeal."
As congressional Republicans aim to fold three issues – IRS, AP phone records, and Benghazi – together, Democrats are trying to treat them separately. But cracks in the caucus’ unity on this approach already are starting to appear. (Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he had trouble defending the Justice Department’s decision to take AP’s phone records.
As Shane Goldmacher reports, how aggressively Democrats on House Judiciary go after Holder will be a strong indicator of whether that side’s lawmakers will continue to toe a party line that is still, for now, defined by the White House.