UPDATE 1:08 p.m. EDT: The hearing is underway, with Holder being heckled by someone complaining about the situation at Guantanamo Bay. "Presently, we don't have order in the hearing room," said Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlaate, R-Va. The attorney general's opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, can be found here. The remarks do not mention the AP or IRS scandals -- areas in which Holder is expected to face tough questioning.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to be grilled by the House Judiciary Committee at 1 p.m. EST Wednesday, when he’s set to testify on a wide range of issues -- from the Associated Press phone records scandal to inter-agency communication in the wake of the Boston bombings to the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into the IRS targeting of tea party and other conservative groups seeking nonprofit status.
“Oversight over the Department of Justice is a key function of the House Judiciary Committee, and recent events illustrate the importance of this duty,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said in an email to the International Business Times. “Any abridgement of the First Amendment is very concerning, especially reports that the IRS targeted conservative groups for unwarranted scrutiny during an election year. Members of the committee will also ask pointed questions about the Justice Department’s decision to obtain two months [sic] worth of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press. Congress and the American people expect answers and accountability.”
The hearing, titled “Oversight of the United States Department of Justice,” was scheduled well in advance of the AP scandal, which hit Monday and was seen by Holder’s critics as an overreach of government power and an act of press intimidation. Holder said at a Tuesday news conference that he recused himself from the government leak investigation that led to Justice obtaining AP phone records, citing a conflict of interest.
The committee will also ask Holder about how multiple government agencies “received intelligence about the [Boston] bombers but failed to connect the dots,” according to Goodlatte.
“The Obama Administration and Congress need to determine whether there are improvements that can be made going forward to facilitate inter-agency information sharing so that we can better detect and deter future home grown terrorist attacks,” the chairman said. “We must ensure our criminal laws and processes are up to the task of handling terrorism cases.”
Also on the docket is “wasteful spending” in the Justice Department under Holder.
“Although Attorney General Holder dramatically warned that sequestration would force the Department to make cuts that threaten the safety of all Americans, a closer look at the Department’s spending reveals many areas of extravagance, such as $10,000 pizza parties and the purchase of a new prison when others sit empty,” Goodlatte said.
Judiciary Committee members “also have questions for the attorney general about the politicization of the Justice Department under his leadership,” the congressman said. “There are several examples in which conclusions reached by career attorneys after thorough investigation have been overruled by administration appointees for political reasons.”
Holder is the sole witness to testify at Wednesday’s 1 p.m. EDT hearing, which will be live streamed here.