“No, I don’t know anything about the political activities of any of the people who are involved in this investigation,” he said when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) questioned him during a Justice Department oversight hearing.
“I must tell you I find it astonishing that the Department of Justice appointed a major Obama donor to head this investigation, so the first question I want to ask is did you know that the lawyer in charge of this investigation was a major Obama donor?” Cruz asked Holder.
On Jan. 8, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to Holder, calling Bosserman’s involvement “highly inappropriate” and demanding that she be “immediately” removed from the investigation.
Issa’s letter detailed that Barbara Bosserman, a trial attorney within the IRS’s Civil Rights Commission, donated close to $7,000 to “Obama’s political campaigns and the Democratic National Committee” between 2004 and 2012.
Holder objected to “the characterization” of Bosserman as the lead lawyer on the case, saying the investigation is “being done by the civil rights division as well as the criminal division of the Justice Department, and if I had to assign a lead in this, I would say that the criminal division of Public Integrity section has actually got the lead.”
“General Holder, with all due respect, you did not answer the question I asked, which is did you know that this lawyer was a major Obama donor,” Cruz said.
After Holder denied knowing the “political activities” of anyone involved in the investigation, Cruz noted that the DOJ ethics guidelines instruct lawyers who believe their “impartiality might be questioned” must either “disqualify” themselves or “see an ethics officer.”
“And indeed it goes on to say, ‘In a case where your impartiality might be questioned, you may obtain a formal opinion that the department’s interest in your participation in this matter outweighs the concern that the integrity of the department’s operation would be questioned,’” Cruz added.
“Now, previously when you were asked about this, you made a reference to the fact that she has a First Amendment right to be involved in politics, and that’s surely right,” Cruz told Holder.
“No one’s talking about restraining her First Amendment right to be involved in politics,” Cruz added.
The fact that “a major Obama donor is playing this leadership role has resulted in the integrity of the department being questioned,” Cruz said. “Is it your position that out of the 117,000 employees at the Department of Justice the only lawyer available to head this investigation was a major Obama donor?”
“First we have 112,000 people, but beyond that, the people who are assigned to this case, the assignments were done by career people within the department to make sure that the best people with the greatest amount of experience would handle this matter,” Holder replied.
“Your repeated reference to her as the lead lawyer, as I said is not born out by the role she’s actually playing,” he continued.
Holder said he had no “basis” to believe that those involved with the investigation are doing so in a way that differs from the way investigations are normally done.
“That is by looking at the facts, applying the law to those facts, and reaching the appropriate conclusions. I don’t have any basis to believe that anything other than that is occurring,” he added.
Cruz noted that 280 days – nine months – have passed since the IRS scandal first broke, and “no one’s been indicted.” On top of that, “many if not all of the victims have not even been interviewed.”
“Apparently the anger and outrage that both the president and you expressed has utterly disappeared. Indeed, last night in the State of the Union address, the president did not so much as mention the words IRS, so that anger and outrage sees very little manifestation in actual action,” Cruz said.
“I would hope that the president would not discuss an ongoing investigation. I don’t know if you’ve ever conducted an investigation, Senator, but the fact that it’s taken – and I’ll just take you at your word – 280 days is not unusual for complex investigations,” Holder replied.
“We want to make sure that what we do is comprehensive and that at the end of the day we get it right,” he said. “I don’t ask people to do things on a short basis, I ask people simply to do them right.”
“Many of the victims” in the IRS scandal have not been interviewed, Cruz pointed out.
“Has the investigation examined the meetings between the head of the IRS and White House political operatives to determine the degree of political influence that was exercised from the White House over this political targeting?” he asked Holder.
“As I said to I think it was maybe Senator Graham, I’m not going to discuss an ongoing investigation and what steps have been taken in connection with that investigation, and that is not something I’m only doing for this inquiry,” Holder responded.
“This would be an answer you would get from me for any investigation that the Justice Department was involved in. It is not appropriate for an attorney general or any Justice Department person to discuss an ongoing criminal investigation,” Holder added.
Cruz asked Holder whether there has been an investigation into whether the IRS targeted individual donors to former Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign “at a greater rate” than Obama donors.
“I will tell you as I traveled the country, I have heard from dozens of financial supporters for Governor Romney who told me that they had never been audited in their life and within a week, a month of it becoming public that they were raising money for Mitt Romney, they discovered they were being audited,” Cruz said.
While Cruz said “those are anecdotal stories,” he said, “it would be relatively simple to examine the prosecution rates of Obama donors versus Romney donors, and if there were a sharp differential – if it were the case that Romney donors were being audited at a much higher frequency – that would raise substantial basis to investigate further.”
“Has the investigation inquired as to that?” Cruz asked Holder.
“Senator, I’ll give you the same response to the questions that you’re asking that are in many ways very similar, I am not going to discuss what we have done in ongoing investigation,” Holder replied.
“This is a matter that is presently being investigated. Interviews are being done. Analysis is being conducted, and it would be inappropriate for me to talk about the matter in the way that you have asked,” he added.