Holder Deflects Questions from Issa on Sestak Job Claim

Darrell Issa, ES, 2.24.10
California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa today aggressively questioned Attorney General Eric Holder over Rep. Joe Sestak's suggestion that he was offered a high-ranking Obama administration job in exchange for dropping his Pennsylvania Democratic primary challenge against Sen. Arlen Specter.

Issa has called for a special prosecutor to investigate Sestak's claim. At a Justice Department Oversight committee hearing today, he pressed Holder on why allegations Issa cast as "bribery of public officials," among other violations, were not being investigated by the Justice Department.

Issa complained that no witnesses have been questioned and expressed consternation that the White House has only addressed the matter through press secretary Robert Gibbs, who has said that any conversations between the White House and Sestak were "not problematic."

Holder told Issa that the appointment of a special prosecutor is something that is "done on a case-by-case basis," prompting Issa to interrupt and ask how this situation did not fall into that category.

Holder said "there are regulations that are in place and there are requirements that have to be met before a special prosecutor" can be appointed, noting that the matter calls to the Department's public integrity section.

He declined to specifically discuss Sestak's charges, telling Issa, "I don't talk about any matter that might come into the purview of the Department of Justice."

Issa then said he wanted to discuss a "hypothetical" situation - and proceeded to essentially repeat Sestak's suggestions. Holder responded that that wasn't really a hypothetical before adding that he doesn't discuss hypothetical situations.

The two men sparred over whether the Justice Department had responded to Issa's most recent letter on the matter, with Holder saying he believed a response had been sent and Issa telling him none had been received. Eventually, a seemingly frustrated Issa asked if Holder had bothered to follow up on the matter.

"It is the department's policy not to comment on pending matters to say there is an investigation, to say there is not an investigation," Holder said, shortly before Issa's time expired and members moved onto other matters.