Holder in the Hot Seat at Congressional Hearing - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Holder in the Hot Seat at Congressional Hearing

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WASHINGTON (CBS/AP)- Amid the ongoing controversies over political discrimination at the IRS and the Justice Department's seizure of two-months-worth of Associated Press (AP) phone records, the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday questioned Attorney General Eric Holder on those and other controversies tied to the Obama administration.

At the opening of the committee's hearing to conduct Justice Department oversight, Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., told Holder he is "deeply concerned about a pattern I see emerging at the department under your leadership in which conclusions reached by career attorneys after thorough investigation are overruled by administration appointees for political reasons."

Goodlatte said the seizure of AP phone records appeared to "intersect important First Amendment protections" and noted that "any abridgement of the First Amendment right to the freedom of the press is very concerning."

The Republican congressman called the IRS' political discrimination against conservative groups "outrageous," while ignoring the fact in his opening remarks that Holder has also decried the scandal and has opened a criminal investigation into the matter with the FBI.

Goodlatte also cited the Justice Department's decision to compensate some farmers for discrimination, characterizing it as questionable and a waste of money. He also criticized the work of Tom Perez -- President Obama's nominee to lead the Labor Department -- as head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, referring to a "secret deal" Perez engaged in with the city of St. Paul, Minn.

In his opening remarks, Holder avoided the controversies, instead defending the progress his department has made combating violent crime, national security threats, fraud and more.

"Particularly in recent years, the Department has taken critical steps to prevent and combat violent crime, to confront national security threats, to ensure the civil rights of everyone in this country, and to safeguard the most vulnerable members of our society," he said. "We've established a remarkable record of progress in expanding our nation's founding promise of equal justice under law, and ensuring the safety and security of our citizens."

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