Rep. Bob Goodlatte is leading a Judiciary Committee probe of Attorney General Eric Holder's actions regarding the targeting of reporters. And he tells Newsmax he is "very concerned" about Justice Department efforts to "harass the news media."
The Virginia Republican also reiterates his call for Holder to step down, a demand he first made two years ago during the Fast and Furious controversy.
Elected in 1992, Goodlatte has been chairman of the House Judiciary Committee since January.
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Holder recently testified before the committee that targeting journalists was "not something I've even been involved in." But it's now been reported that Holder personally sanctioned a search warrant labeling Fox News
correspondent James Rosen a co-conspirator in leaking national-security secrets.
In an exclusive interview Wednesday with Newsmax TV, Goodlatte discusses his probe of Holder.
"We are sending a letter today-- myself and the chairman of the Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee -- asking him to explain how his answers to the committee conflict with the actions that he appears to have taken with regard to Mr. Rosen, and we will withhold judgment on what the attorney general's actions constitute until we give an opportunity for him to explain himself.
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"But it is quite concerning."
The Judiciary Committee also has been investigating disclosures that the Justice Department secretly obtained telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press.
"Subpoenas were issued there which appear to have been overbroad both in terms of the number of reporters whose phone-call records were sought as well as the length of time, 60 days, that was involved in that," Goodlatte says.
"[And we have] some questions about the attorney general's involvement in that, where he said that he recused himself and turned over that responsibility to Deputy Attorney General James Cole.
"We have already sent a letter to Mr. Cole asking him a series of questions regarding how that matter took place. Now we are pursuing it further with regard to the Fox News matter with Mr. Rosen, and we have sent a letter to the attorney general asking him to explain how the information that we have regarding the search warrant with Mr. Rosen conflicts with his sworn testimony before the committee.
"We are very concerned about the Justice Department targeting reporters and using what could be overbroad investigative tools to harass the news media, and we want to make sure they are following the rules. But we are also concerned that Mr. Holder has again contradicted himself and we want to know why that is. We'll wait for an answer to that before we decide what our next step is in terms of committee hearings."
Sen. Lindsay Graham has called for an independent special counsel to investigate the IRS and Justice Department scandals.
But Goodlatte believes a select committee or independent special counsel would "sidetrack" the ongoing investigation.
"The fact of the matter is, if we find sufficient information to justify getting this off on the separate track and delaying the investigation while a special select committee or a special counsel is appointed, we will do that," he says.
"But at this point in time it's important that the committees involved — and it's not just the Judiciary Committee, but with regard to the IRS, it's also the Ways and Means Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee — that we continue to pursue this investigation aggressively and look into the matter, and if we were to sidetrack to get to a select committee, that will slow down this process.
"There will be a decision made later on about whether or not we need to take a different course with regard to these investigations."
Asked if Holder should resign, Goodlatte responds: "Last year in the last Congress I co-sponsored a resolution calling for him to step down, and he has still not complied with the subpoena that was given to him with regard to the investigation of Fast and Furious.
"The result of that is that his noncompliance, his having been held in contempt of the House of Representatives, all indicate to me his unwillingness to take responsibility for the actions in this Justice Department, his inability to provide leadership.
"Therefore it is very concerning to me, and I see nothing that would change my opinion from two years ago that he should step down."
Goodlatte also is working on immigration-reform legislation in the House.
He tells Newsmax: "We are taking a step-by-step approach. We appreciate the effort that is ongoing in the Senate. We have a broken immigration system and it needs to be fixed, both in the sense of enforcing our immigration laws and in finding the appropriate legal status for those who are not lawfully present in the United States today.
"We also want to make sure that we're doing everything possible to improve our legal immigration system because we think it could work much better from the standpoint of the national interest of the United States and American citizens in creating jobs and growing our economy.
"We are hard at work. We have introduced three bills in the House Judiciary Committee dealing with various aspects of immigration reform. The Homeland Security Committee has introduced and passed out of the committee a fourth bill dealing with border security.
"Next week we will introduce in the Judiciary Committee a fifth bill dealing with interior security, because the problem is not just at the border: 35 to 40 percent of the people who are not lawfully present in the United States entered the country legally on visitor visas, business visas, student visas, visa waivers, etc., and simply overstayed their visa.
"So fixing the issues on the border does not by any means completely solve the problem. In fact, some would argue that the biggest problem we have right now is the lack of enforcement in the interior of the country.
"We are also continuing to work on the issue of what the legal status of people not lawfully present in the United States should be. I do not support a special pathway to citizenship. That would give people who entered the country unlawfully an advantage over people who have been attempting — in some cases for many, many years, — to lawfully immigrate.
"Figuring out what the way forward is in terms of enforcing our immigration laws; adding new enforcement measures; making sure that no president of the United States, not just President Obama, but no president can flip a switch and determine not to enforce the immigration laws as they pertain to millions of people who are not here lawfully; and making sure we do not undertake something that will cost the taxpayers of this country huge sums of money, are all matters that we are working our way through, one step at a time."
Regarding the immigration-reform bill in the Senate, Goodlatte says: "The biggest concern I have is that long before they ever give anybody a pathway to citizenship, they almost immediately give a legal status to people before they have in place the measures that would assure that we don’t have a repeat of what happened in 1986, when 3 million people were given an easy pathway to citizenship and the enforcement measures never were seriously implemented — employer sanctions and other things.
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"Now we have new measures like E-Verify, which is a voluntary system we want to make mandatory for every employer. That would be implemented under the Senate rule after they've given legal status to millions of people.
"We've got to make sure that if we are going to change the legal status of millions of people, we don’t have another tidal wave of people coming into the country after them."
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