Marijuana, accusations of perjury, election integrity and asparagus were the range of topics covered in Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing. Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the committee in a hearing designed for oversight on the Department of Justice. Holder and members of the committee had some tense exchanges as congressmen tried to nail down the attorney general on specific enforcement of laws. Check out Roll Call’s top moments below:
As Hannah Hess reported, Holder was asked by members from both sides of the aisle about the current marijuana laws and if the Obama administration has any plans to change how they classify drug offenses:
Holder also said the DOJ won’t scale back marijuana punishments by rescheduling the drug, as House Democrats have been pushing President Barack Obama to do, saying he was “satisfied” with what the department is doing.
“The notion that somehow we have retreated from our enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act with regard to marijuana is not accurate,” Holder told the House Judiciary Committee. He reiterated a DOJ memo laying out eight areas of priority for pot prosecutions, including marketing to minors, driving under the influence and criminal cartels.
“That’s not inconsistent with, I think, the way in which the Justice Department was acting before,” Holder continued in response to a question from Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C. “We remain committed to enforcement of marijuana laws that would involve those eight factors,” he added.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., asked Holder if he was planning to investigate Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper for alleged perjury. As Roll Call previously reported, Holder declined to confirm or deny that the director was under investigation:
“Director Clapper’s perjury in my opinion has been covered extensively,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “In light of this, are you willing to discuss whether or not the Justice Department is investigating Director Clapper for his statements before the Senate?
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. refused to say whether the DOJ was conducting an investigation.
“I’m really not in a position to confirm whether the department is investigating any particular matter, but we are reviewing the material that you and other members of the committee have provided to us, and I can assure you that we will take any action that is appropriate,” Holder said.
Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-VA., started off the hearing saying he was “concerned” about directives issued by the Department of Justice about the President’s ability to determine which laws to prosecute. “I am concerned about some of the decisions and some of the directives that have been issued by you and others in the Department of Justice,” Goodlatte said. “Is it your view that there is any limit to the president’s prosecutorial discretion?”
Holder said that the discretion must be done in a “constitutional way” and added that there is a “vast amount of discretion.”
“…[D]iscretion has to be used in an appropriate way so that you’re acting consistent with the aims of the statute,” Holder said. “But at the same time, making sure that you are acting in a way that’s consistent with our values, consistent with the Constitution and protecting the American people.”
Representative Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and the Attorney General had a very tense exchange during the hearing. The two have a long history of tense committee banter and Holder took the chance to remind the Texas Republican of their previous history when he ended their Tuesday exchange with, “good luck with your asparagus.”
Watch the full hearing below and visit Roll Call’s YouTube page for previous hearings and full weekly leadership pressers.