Holder: IRS probe to look at possible civil rights violations, false statements

The attorney general also said that his recusal from the AP phone records case was not done in writing

Topics: Eric Holder, Department of Justice, IRS, Associated Press, Tea Party,

During testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the criminal investigation into the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups will involve looking at possible civil rights violations and false statements.

Holder said that the investigation will be based in Washington, “that way I think we could have a better impact nationwide,” but “the facts will take us wherever they take us. It will not be limited to one city.”

When asked which criminal statutes the IRS might have violated, Holder said the investigation will look at potential civil rights violations, and the “possibility of false statements.” He stipulated that when it comes to classifying groups as 501(c)(4)s, “I think that some inquiry into that area is appropriate, but I think it should not depend on the political persuasion of the group.”

Holder was also asked about the subpoena of the Associated Press’s phone records, which he confirmed was authorized by Deputy Attorney General James Cole. “I am not familiar with the reasons why the subpoena was constructed in the way that it was, because I’m simply not a part of the case,” Holder said, referring to the fact that he had recused himself from the investigation into leaked intelligence about a CIA operation in Yemen. But Holder maintained that though he does not know the details of the subpoenas, “I have faith in the people involved … that they were aware of the rules.”

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Holder explained that he recused himself because he was interviewed as part of the investigation, “as one of the people who had access to the information” that was leaked to the AP. “I thought it would be inappropriate and have a bad appearance to be a person who had been a fact witness in the case and then lead the investigation.”

When pressed about his recusal, though, Holder said that he did not know the exact date of it, did not inform the White House about it, and did not do so in writing. ”I guess it might be helpful” to have put in in writing, he said.

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at jrayfield@salon.com.

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