The feud between U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., reached new heights during a House Judiciary Committee meeting on Wednesday when the attorney general accused the congressman of “unacceptable” and “shameful” behavior.
Issa was asking Holder about Thomas Perez, the assistant U.S. attorney general for the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division who was nominated by President Obama to head the Department of Labor.
According to Issa, who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Perez worked out a deal with the city of St. Paul, Minn., to drop its appeal of a federal housing discrimination case that was headed to the U.S. Supreme Court in exchange for the Justice department not to intervene in two unrelated legal cases against the city that would have been costly.
Issa said his committee requested emails on the St. Paul matter from the Justice department, but the emails only showed who wrote them and who they were sent too, with all other information redacted.
That’s when a testy exchange arose between Issa and Holder (you can view it below). The attorney general said there must have been “good reason” why the emails were presented to the committee that way.
“Yes, you didn’t want us to see the details,” Issa said.
“No, no, no, see, that’s what you typically do. No, I’m not going to stop talking now. You characterized something … that is inappropriate and is too consistent with the way in which you conduct yourself as a member of Congress. It’s unacceptable and it’s shameful,” Holder responded.
Issa wasn’t the only Judiciary Committee member to get in a heated argument with Holder during Wednesday’s hearing.
U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., ripped Holder over what he said was the attorney general’s “lack of preparation or perceived lack of preparation in which you come here today.”
Collins was referring to Holder’s saying he wasn’t sure if the committee would ask him exactly when he recused himself from the Associated Press leak investigation.
“You’re kidding me. You come to this committee today with these issues like they are right now,” Collins said before being interrupted.
An argument ensued over whether Collins went over his five minute time limit for questions when Holder said the congressman should be given extra time.
“Mr. Attorney General, you don’t control the time here,” Collins responded.
Earlier, the congressman asked if the attorney general understood the role Congress has regarding oversight of the executive branch.
“I didn’t show up here because I really wanted to,” Holder quipped.
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Tex., said she didn’t appreciate the tone of her colleagues.
“I know that some of us have deep base-like voices," she said. "It might sound like we’re not being friendly and happy, but I would appreciate a little civility in the questioning of the attorney general."
Holder said he didn’t believe he was shown the level of respect that his title deserves. (You can see the clip of his comments below.)
“Look, I respect the oversight role that Congress plays. This isn’t always a pleasant experience. It’s one that I recognize that you go through as an executive branch officer. The one thing I’ve tried to do is always be respectful of the people who ask me questions,” he said. “I don’t frankly think I’ve always been treated with a great deal of respect and it’s not even a personal thing -- if you don’t like me, that’s one thing -- but I am the attorney general of the United States.”
“I think that is something that is emblematic of the problem in Washington nowadays," he continued. "There’s almost a toxic and partisan atmosphere here where basic levels of civility don’t exist. We can have really serious partisan fighting … but I think people should have the ability … to treat one another with respect. But I know that I have not been treated that way all the time.”
Here's video of Holder saying he doesn't get the respect he feels he should command: