Watching a congressional hearing usually amounts to the civic duty equivalent of eating your vegetables, but one House hearing today dished out some drama (if not comedy) for dessert.
After getting grilled at the House Judiciary Committee hearing, Attorney General Eric Holder wished one of his outspoken critics “good luck with your asparagus.”
It was a not-so-subtle dig at Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, inspired by the congressman’s flub last year when he warned Holder not to “cast aspersions on my asparagus.”
Holder has had a testy relationship with several Republican lawmakers since the Republican-led House held him in contempt of Congress two years ago for failing to turn over certain documents tied to the Fast and Furious scandal involving botched firearms sting operations, despite a congressional subpoena seeking those documents.
In asking Holder today about the Justice Department’s refusal to turn over documents in an unrelated terrorism case, Gohmert again raised the issue of contempt, saying, “I realize that contempt is not a big deal to our attorney general, but it is important that we have proper oversight.”
A visibly upset Holder, leaning back in his chair, shot back, “You don’t want to go there, buddy. You don’t want to go there, ok?”
“You should not assume that that is not a big deal to me,” Holder continued, pointing a finger toward the congressman. “I think it was inappropriate. I think it was unjust, but never think that was not a big deal to me. Don’t ever think that.”
Gohmert pressed the issue. “There have been no indications that it was a big deal, because your department has still not been forthcoming in producing the documents that were the subject of the contempt.”
“I don’t need lectures from you about contempt,” Gohmert added.
“And I don’t need lectures from you either,” Holder responded.
The documents at issue are mostly from the months after the public first learned that an Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigation called Fast and Furious put guns into the hands of criminals in Mexico. Republican lawmakers subpoenaed the Justice Department for internal emails dated after Feb. 4, 2011, when department officials realized they would have to retract a letter to Congress denying any such thing happened. But President Obama then asserted executive privilege over the documents, and Republicans filed suit in federal court.
After Gohmert’s time to ask questions today expired, Holder leaned into the microphone and said: “Good luck with your asparagus.”
It was a reference to a remark by Gohmert at a hearing nearly a year ago.
At that hearing, Gohmert and Holder got into another heated back and forth over how the FBI handled the case of alleged Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who had been interviewed by the FBI years before the attack for possible radicalization.
Gohmert said he was “trying to determine how the FBI blew the opportunity to save people’s lives,” but Holder defended the FBI’s work, telling Gohmert, “You don’t know what the FBI did. You don’t know what the FBI’s interaction was with the — with the — with the Russians. You don’t know what questions were put to the Russians, whether those questions were responded to. You simply do not know that. And you have characterized the FBI as being not thorough or taken exception to my characterization of them as being thorough. I know what the FBI did. You cannot know what I know.”
In trying to get a chance to respond to Holder’s comments, a flustered Gohmert shot back, “[Do not] cast aspersions on my asparagus.”