Eric Holder’s week just keeps getting worse.
Republicans senators are pushing the U.S. attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate whether the White House was involved in leaking national security information to the media.
Holder earlier appointed two U.S. attorneys to look into the matter, but the GOP senators say that isn’t good enough.
“The numerous national security leaks reportedly originating out of the executive branch in recent months have been stunning,” said a letter signed by more than 30 Republican senators and obtained by Fox News.
“If there were ever a case requiring an outside special counsel with bipartisan acceptance and widespread public trust, this is it.”
The leaks of sensitive information include details of a U.S. cyberattack on Iran and U.S. drone strikes in the Middle East.
The letter points out a possible source of the leaks involving drones that appeared in a New York Times story: Thomas Donilon, the national security adviser whom the senators say is “the commenter of record on events."
The demand comes as the House prepares to vote Thursday on whether to hold the nation’s highest law enforcement official in contempt of Congress for refusing turn over some documents sought by a House panel investigating Operation Fast and Furious, a botched gun-running sting.
Four lawmakers, including Obama's 2008 GOP presidential rival John McCain, held a news conference Tuesday renewing their weeks-old call for the appointment of an independent investigator. Republicans argue that the leaks were deliberate to enhance the president's record on national security as he seeks a second term.
"This administration cannot be trusted to investigate itself," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters.
Holder has resisted calls for a special counsel, telling lawmakers recently that the two attorneys, Ron Machen and Rod Rosenstein, are experienced, independent and thorough.
To stem the leaks, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper announced two new steps on Monday. He said a question related to unauthorized disclosure of classified information would be added to the polygraph test used by intelligence agencies. He also said the inspector general for the intelligence community would lead any independent investigations that the Justice Department declines.
"That's to some degree closing the barn door," McCain said. "I think it's laudable that he has taken that step, but the fact is we have to find out how this happened and who did it."
The Republicans suggested that a congressional investigation may be warranted. Cornyn said he spoke to Sens, Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, the top members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, about a possible inquiry.
In the letter, the senators say the leaks have risked national security as well as the lives of U.S. citizens and allies. They said that based on media reports, there could be many sources for the leaks within the administration.
The GOP lawmakers wrote that the inquiry by the two U.S. attorneys "does not ensure a full and thorough investigation free of influence. The U.S. attorneys are under your personal supervision. An outside special counsel, with the appropriate independence and authority, would ensure that the investigation remains untainted by even the appearance of politics or undue influence."
The investigation is just under way, but in an unusual step the lawmakers singled out by name national security adviser Thomas Donilon, citing various media reports. Asked about the mention of Donilon, McCain said, "I'm not ready to indict someone until the investigation is complete."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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