Reps. Bob Goodlatte and James Sensenbrenner of the House Judiciary Committee finally got a response to their letter, but not from the addressee, and that has them steamed.  In what the Times-Dispatch called “an attempt to mollify Republican lawmakers,” Eric Holder handed off the demand for an explanation of seemingly false testimony to the committee on May 15th to a subordinate.  The “mollifying” may have thrown even more gasoline on the fire:

A senior Justice Department official told two Republican congressmen Monday that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has never been involved in the prosecution of a journalist for the publication of classified information.

In an effort to mollify Republican lawmakers who have accused Holder of perjury, Peter J. Kadzik, the principal deputy assistant attorney general, sent a letter to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Virginia’s Robert W. Goodlatte, R-6th, and Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis. The letter emphasized that an investigation is different than a prosecution and that any attempt to obtain a search warrant comes before any final decision about prosecution.

“We are unaware of an instance when the department has prosecuted a journalist for the mere publication of classified information,” Kadzik wrote.

First, that isn’t what Holder testified.  Holder specifically said he’d never even heard of any potential prosecution of a reporter under the Espionage Act of 1917, emphases mine:

In regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material.This is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy.

Signing a warrant listing James Rosen as a potential co-conspirator in espionage in order to get unlimited access to his communications makes it clear that Holder had “heard of” and been involved in the potential prosecution of a journalist since 2010.  That, after all, is exactly what Holder and US Attorney Ronald Machen represented to not one but three federal judges: that they needed Rosen’s communications because he was a potential target for prosecution.  Otherwise, they both would be guilty of false testimony in federal court, too.

Needless to say, when Goodlatte and Sensenbrenner sent the letter to Holder, they expected to get a reply from the Attorney General who offered that testimony and not one of his underlings. They expressed their dissatisfaction immediately after receiving the reply:

Chairman Goodlatte:  “Today’s response from the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs raises more questions than it answers.  By having a subordinate send this response rather than Attorney General Holder himself, this response begs the question of whether Holder has something to hide.  Discrepancies in Attorney General Holder’s congressional testimony made on the record need to be corrected on the record to Congress by Attorney General Holder himself.

“Attorney General Holder still has yet to respond to our letter.  He can’t outsource the responsibility for his actions to lower level staff—the buck stops with him.  The American people and Congress deserve answers and accountability from Attorney General Holder.  The House Judiciary Committee anxiously awaits his response to our May 29 letter by this Wednesday’s deadline.”

Subcommittee Chairman Sensenbrenner:  “This response is insulting and further proof that Attorney General Holder refuses to hold himself accountable. Not only did the letter come from a low-level staffer at DOJ, not Holder himself, it fails to answer the questions raised by his misleading testimony. Congress and the American people deserve an explanation from the Attorney General. It is increasingly obvious that Eric Holder has something to hide. I still expect a response from the Attorney General before the deadline of Wednesday, June 5.”

If not, the subpoenas will start flying shortly thereafter:

Republican lawmakers are considering whether to haul Attorney General Eric Holder back before a House committee over questionable testimony he provided on the Justice Department’s surveillance of reporters, threatening to subpoena the nation’s top law enforcement officer if necessary. …

Sensenbrenner and Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., want Holder to clarify his testimony, claiming it appears to conflict with his department’s actions.

Sensenbrenner said his committee is prepared to compel Holder to explain if he doesn’t make the Wednesday deadline.

“I think we ought to subpoena the attorney general to come back and answer those questions specifically,” he told Fox News, when asked what happens if Holder misses the deadline.

Hours after the letter was released, Greta van Susteren talked with former US Attorney Rudy Giuliani about the case.  Giuliani said he thinks he could Holder acquitted for perjury, although van Susteren argues that Holder’s statement was too broad not to cover what happened with Rosen.  Nevertheless, Giuliani says that Holder should “prove his innocence somewhere else” than the Department of Justice, and that any other lawyer would be facing disbarment under the same circumstances:

“Where else are they going after political enemies?” Giuliani asked.  That’s not the question a White House needs to have floating around at any time, but especially not with the IRS scandal continuing to expand.