(CNN) – Republicans pushed forward in their criticism of Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday, standing by a new investigation of his comments at a congressional hearing about leaks.
Holder has come under fire for saying in the May 15 grilling on Capitol Hill that he has never been involved with the "potential prosecution of the press," despite signing off on a 2010 warrant application that listed a Fox News reporter as a "co-conspirator" for receiving classified material from a government official.
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"With regard to the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, that is not something that I've ever been involved in or heard of or would think would be a wise policy," Holder said.
Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill are focusing on that comment, now that the Justice Department has acknowledged it tracked Fox reporter Jay Rosen's e-mails and movements in and out of the State Department. The decision to apply for the search warrant was vetted at the department's highest levels, including Holder, a Justice Department official said.
Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, for example, said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that Holder's comments amount to "a lie, by most people's standards."
The Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee announced last week it is now looking into whether Holder lied under oath when he made that statement, which came before news of the Justice Department's monitoring of Rosen but after news that the department had subpoenaed phone records of Associated Press reporters.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the judiciary committee, said Sunday it's giving Holder until Wednesday to "answer some very pointed questions about the conflict between his testimony under oath."
"Those remarks were made under oath," he said on "Fox News Sunday." "But we also think it's very important that the attorney general be afforded the opportunity to respond. So we will wait to pass judgment on that until after we receive his response - unless, of course, he's not forthcoming with that."
On the same program, Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen said the "whole thing reeks of hypocrisy."
"It wasn't that long ago you had Republicans on Capitol Hill and a lot of folks on Fox going after the Obama administration saying, 'You're not getting to the bottom of these national security leaks.' It was nonstop for a while. Then the administration goes after these national leaks and people say, 'Oh, you can't do that,'" he said.
Asked Sunday whether he thinks Holder lied, Issa said, "It would be kind to say he misled Congress."
"It would be less kind and more accurate to say that would rise to be a lie by most people's standards," the House oversight committee chairman told CNN's chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley. "By the American people's standard, you don't sign a warrant and then pretend you wouldn't know about it."
"One of the things about perjury, this is the attorney general. Don't use perjury lightly," he added. "Perjury is a criminal charge that has to be proven. But certainly it's hard to have confidence in what this attorney general says or his people say, when so often it turns out not to be true."
Issa pointed to "Fast and Furious," the botched firearm program in Mexico run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, saying Holder still hasn't provided answers about the controversy.
"This attorney general maliciously covered up and will not give us the facts as to when Congress was lied to in the Fast and Furious case," he said. "So now when he does something similar, tries to cover up his tracks potentially as to a warrant he signed, am I surprised? No."
Sen. John McCain also expressed a lack of confidence in Holder.
“The Attorney General has to ask himself the question, ‘Is he really able to effectively serve the president of the United States and the American people under the present circumstances?’ That’s a decision he’d have to make,” McCain said on CBS’ “Face The Nation.”
The FBI affidavit used to obtain the warrant for Rosen's e-mails said there was probable cause the reporter had broken the law when he allegedly received a leaked classified report from a State Department contractor named Stephen Kim. The affidavit described Rosen as potentially being an "aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator" to the crime of disclosing government secrets.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that no prosecution ever took place in the case involving Rosen and Fox News, and therefore it was "self-evident" that any charge Holder lied to the House panel was "inaccurate."
Implying that Republicans were playing politics on the matter, Carney said reporters should "be careful not to conflate facts with statements by members of Congress about what they want to be true." Pressed further, he added that reporters were "conflating a subpoena with prosecution."
Asked if Obama still had full confidence in the attorney general, Carney replied: "He absolutely does, yes."
The Justice Department also released a statement late Thursday night, saying Holder did not lie in his May 15 testimony and that his comments were "accurate and consistent with the facts." An official said that prosecutors have never sought to bring criminal charges against Rosen, meaning Holder's testimony was accurate.
"The search warrant application in the Kim matter was focused on obtaining evidence relating to allegations that a government official had leaked highly classified information, which was a threat to our national security," the Justice official wrote. "The warrant application was drafted during the investigation phase of the case, which came before any decisions about prosecution. And nearly three years after completing our thorough investigation of the Kim matter, the Department does not anticipate bringing any additional charges. During the Attorney General's tenure, no reporter has ever been prosecuted."
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