WASHINGTON — Republicans on Sunday kept up steady criticism of Attorney General Eric Holder, who has come under fresh scrutiny following the Justice Department's handling of leak investigations.
"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," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on CBS's Face the Nation.
As Republicans pounced, Democrats defended the attorney general. The Senate's third-ranking Democrat said he believes Holder will stay on as the nation's top law enforcement officer.
"I haven't seen anything that would prevent him from continuing to do his job," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on NBC's Meet the Press.
"I don't think he should step aside," added Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.
The Justice Department has been criticized in recent weeks for its tactics in a pair of leak inquiries in which investigators obtained journalists' phone and email records. Republicans have seized on Holder's remarks before a House committee, which they say are at odds with what he knew about one of the investigations.
At the appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, Holder said the potential prosecution of a journalist reporting sensitive information is "not something that I have ever been involved in or would think would be a wise policy."
But a subsequent Washington Post report about a Justice Department investigation into possible leaks of classified information about North Korea to Fox News reporter James Rosen has spurred Republicans to question whether Holder was telling the truth. Law enforcement officials characterized Rosen as a possible "co-conspirator," and multiple reports say that Holder was personally involved in signing off on the Rosen warrant.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., sent Holder a letter last week asking for clarification about his remarks.
Goodlatte said Sunday that the conflict between Holder's remarks and his involvement in the Rosen matter is "very troublesome" but that the attorney general's response must be reviewed before the question of whether Holder lied is ultimately answered.