Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) previewed Thursday the Republican offensive for the upcoming oversight hearing with Attorney General Eric Holder.
Holder is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 23.
Kyl told members of the committee that panel Republicans will question the Attorney General about his 2004 amicus brief that recommended the Supreme Court stop the Bush administration’s efforts to try Jose Padilla as an enemy combatant.
The brief, which was signed by Holder, former Attorney General Janet Reno and two other top-ranking Clinton administration officials, said that the civilian justice system may pose obstacles to detention or intelligence-gathering, but that such risks represent “an inherent consequence of the limitation of Executive power.”
In a National Review column published yesterday, two Bush administration officials, Dana Perino and Bill Burck, argued that the brief contradicts Holder’s public remarks supporting his decision to treat alleged Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, as a civilian. The brief was not disclosed to the panel when the Senate was reviewing Holder’s nomination. DOJ spokesman Matthew Miller told Politico was the omission was inadvertent and unfortunate.
Kyl called the non-disclosure of the brief “rather distressing.”
“Are we expected to believe that then-nominee Holder…forgot about his role in one of this country’s most politicized terrorism cases?” Kyl asked.
Panel Republicans said they would also question the Attorney General about the DOJ lawyers who represented alleged terrorist detainees in the past and whether those attorneys were handling decisions on terrorism cases now. Last week, a group run by Liz Cheney, the former vice president’s daughter, released an ad that referred to the DOJ lawyers as the “al-Qaeda Seven” and questioned their loyalty to the United States.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), a Judiciary committee member, has asked the DOJ to name the lawyers. Assistant Attorney General Ron Weich did not identity all the DOJ officials in question in a Feb. 18 letter to Grassley. But Fox News later tracked down and published the names of the attorneys.
Kyl said the letter from Weich was “far from comforting” and there are still “serious conflict of interest questions” about the DOJ lawyers.
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said on the Senate floor Wednesday that he was saddened by the “partisan and personal attack” against the DOJ lawyers.
“I would hope that we would not get into a discussion that some have had about the propriety of the people representing those who’ve been charged with crimes,” Leahy told panel members Thursday.