In what was likely one of his last news conferences as head of the Justice Department, outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder today accused Republican critics of being “a little irresponsible” last week during Senate hearings to vet his likely replacement.
He said many of the questions posed to nominee Loretta Lynch and other witnesses over two days were “not particularly relevant” to Lynch’s qualifications, and a “notion that somehow or another this Justice Department has been politicized” seemed to “permeate that hearing both the first day and the second day.”
In a more light-hearted moment from last week’s hearing, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, asked Lynch: "You're not Eric Holder, are you?"
"No, I'm not," Lynch assured Cornyn with a small laugh. "I will be myself. I will be Loretta Lynch [if confirmed.]"
Cornyn said Holder's record has weighed "heavily" on some of his fellow senators' minds, insisting Holder was "openly contentious" toward Republican lawmakers, "stonewalled legitimate" oversight investigations, and "harassed" states that passed laws requiring certain forms of identification for voters to cast ballots in elections.
But before beginning his remarks today announcing a major financial settlement in Washington, Holder took the opportunity to fire back.
“Good morning. And for the record, I am Eric Holder,” mocking Cornyn’s question.
When a reporter noted that last week’s hearing “seemed to become a referendum” on Holder, not Lynch, Holder shot back sarcastically: “Ya think?”
“I think it’s a little irresponsible for people on the Hill to say that policy differences that we have with them or decisions that we have made that are not consistent with the way they view the world can be characterized as political,” Holder added. “There is no politicization of this Justice Department. I’m proud of the work that we’ve done over the past six years, the historic things that we have done, and I would hope that the American people would not fall prey to interesting soundbites that simply are inconsistent with facts.”
Meanwhile, he predicted Lynch is “going to be a great attorney general” with an “ability to be independent from the president.”