Holder defends independence of DOJ investigation into national-security leaks

Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderBarack, Michelle Obama expected to refrain from endorsing in 2020 Dem primary: report Ocasio-Cortez to be first guest on new Desus and Mero show Holder says he will make 2020 decision in coming weeks MORE defended the Justice Department’s ability to be independent as it investigates national-security leaks in the face of Republican calls for a special counsel.

Holder said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday that the two U.S. attorneys he appointed will “follow leads wherever they are, whether in the executive branch or other component of government."

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“This committee and the American people can have great faith in the two people I've asked to lead this investigation,” Holder said.

Many Republicans in the Senate have called for a special counsel to lead an investigation independent of the executive branch, and Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMellman: Where are good faith and integrity? GOP senator says Republicans didn't control Senate when they held majority Pence met with silence after mentioning Trump in Munich speech MORE (R-Ariz.) will introduce a non-binding 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 GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Drug pricing fight centers on insulin | Florida governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs | Dems blast proposed ObamaCare changes Drug pricing fight centers on insulin On The Money: Smaller tax refunds put GOP on defensive | Dems question IRS on new tax forms | Warren rolls out universal child care proposal | Illinois governor signs bill for minimum wage MORE (R-Iowa).

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamFBI’s top lawyer believed Hillary Clinton should face charges, but was talked out of it Overnight Defense: Graham clashed with Pentagon chief over Syria | Talk grows that Trump will fire Coats | Coast Guard officer accused of domestic terrorism plot Graham cursed at acting DOD chief, declaring himself his 'adversary' MORE (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 FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFeinstein says she thinks Biden will run after meeting with him Trump judicial nominee Neomi Rao seeks to clarify past remarks on date rape Bottom Line MORE (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.

Feinstein’s statement highlights a division between Republicans and Democrats on the intelligence leak probe as both parties have tried to put forward a bipartisan approach to the leaks.

“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.”