By Jeremy Herb
The fight over national security leaks in the Obama administration took a sharply partisan turn Tuesday with the introduction of a Senate resolution by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) calling for an independent investigation.
Republicans also sharply attacked President Obama and Vice President Biden, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) accusing the two of hypocrisy for calling for a special counsel during the Bush administration when they were serving as senators.
“All we’re asking for is what Senator Obama and Senator Biden asked for in previous national security events involving corruption of the government,” Graham said, referring to the Valerie Plame and Jack Abramoff cases.
“I guess the difference is we’re supposed to trust Democratic administrations and you can’t trust Republican administrations,” Graham said.
McCain and Graham said on the Senate floor that a special counsel is necessary because of possible conflicts of interest from sources of the leaks within the Obama administration.
Graham also accused Democrats of having a double standard at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday at which Attorney General Eric Holder testified.
“There’s no doubt in my mind if the shoe was on the other foot, you and everybody on that side would be screaming,” Graham told Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) after Graham had urged Holder to appoint a special counsel.
That comment sparked protests from both Leahy and Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who said that Graham had gone “over the line.”
Senate Democrats blocked McCain's resolution Tuesday afternoon. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) objected after McCain asked for unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to consideration of his resolution.
Criticisms of the leaks last week were notable for their bipartisanship, with members of both parties objecting to some of the worst national security leaks they said they had ever seen.
But McCain ran into opposition from Democrats with his Tuesday measure, and the hearing included new partisan sniping.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who has fiercely criticized the leaks, said she opposes the appointment of a special counsel. Just last week she had said she was undecided.
“To have a fight over how we do this now will set back any leak investigation,” Feinstein said the Judiciary hearing.
Holder defended the independence of the two U.S. attorneys he appointed to investigate the leaks in the face of Republican criticism at the hearing.
“This committee and the American people can have great faith in the two people I've asked to lead this investigation,” Holder said.
But Graham and other Republicans said that Holder’s record raises red flags about his own ability to remain independent.
A House panel has scheduled a vote next week to hold Holder in contempt for not providing documents to lawmakers related to a controversial gun-tracking operation known as "Fast and Furious," and the attorney general has become a punching bag for Republicans.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who on Tuesday said Holder should resign, said he was not satisfied by Holder’s claim that his U.S. attorneys would conduct an independent investigation.
“The question that’s raised by your answer is whether you have the independence when all of this comes back through you, and given your track record,” Cornyn said.
Updated at 1:58 p.m.