By Jeremy Herb and Jordy Yager - 06/12/12 03:29 PM EDT
Attorney General Eric Holder told a Senate panel on Tuesday that Justice Department investigators have interviewed both him and FBI Director Robert Mueller in its probe of national security leaks from the White House.
The leaks have centered around a drone target "kill list" and a cyberattack on Iran.
Holder last week appointed two U.S. attorneys to investigate a series of national security leaks that have provoked bipartisan criticism from Congress, with members in both parties saying they are the worst series of leaks in memory.
The decision to appoint the U.S. attorneys and not a special counsel has been criticized by Republicans, some of whom have accused the administration of using the leaks to highlight President Obama's national security credentials ahead of his reelection effort.
Obama last week said it was outrageous to say the leaks were done for a political purpose.
Holder defended his department’s ability to be independent as it investigates the leaks in the face of Republican calls for a special counsel.
Holder said the two U.S. attorneys he appointed will “follow leads wherever they are, whether in the executive branch or other component of government."
“This committee and the American people can have great faith in the two people I've asked to lead this investigation,” Holder said.
Holder's comments are unlikely to mollify Republicans who want a special counsel to be appointed.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will introduce a nonbinding resolution pressing for a special counsel on Tuesday.
“I believe the only way to truly get to the bottom of these dangerous leaks is to appoint an independent special prosecutor,” said Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa.).
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who supports McCain's resolution, said: "If there was ever a need for an outside special counsel, it is now.”
But Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who also sits on Judiciary, said Tuesday that she would oppose McCain’s resolution and did not believe a special counsel was necessary.
“To have a fight over how we do this now will set back any leak investigation,” Feinstein said. “These are two scrupulous men, they are both independent, and I have no reason to believe why they can’t work with the FBI and assemble a very strong prosecution team where warranted.”
Holder said that a special counsel would take too much time to set up, and that appointing two U.S. attorneys, Maryland’s Rod Rosenstein and D.C.’s Ronald Machen Jr., was the best course.
“The need is for us to operate with some degree of haste and speed,” Holder said. “That’s why I picked two really good U.S. attorneys.”