Holder tells Senate he's been questioned on national security leaks

Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderIf Roger Stone were a narco, he'd be in the clear Trump flexes pardon power with high-profile clemencies They forgot that under Trump, there are two sets of rules MORE 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. 

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Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee that investigators have already questioned him and Mueller for any possible role they might have played in leaking the information to the media.

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 McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain after Gaetz says Trump should pardon Roger Stone: 'Oh come on' Advice for fellow Democrats: Don't count out Biden, don't fear a brokered convention McSally ties Democratic rival Kelly to Sanders in new ad MORE (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 GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyErnst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Overnight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case Mnuchin defends Treasury regulations on GOP tax law MORE (R-Iowa.).

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: Trump has 'all the legal authority in the world' to pardon Stone Overnight Defense: Pentagon policy chief resigns at Trump's request | Trump wishes official 'well in his future endeavors' | Armed Services chair warns against Africa drawdown after trip GOP chairman after Africa trip: US military drawdown would have 'real and lasting negative consequences' 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 FeinsteinCalifornia lawmakers mark Day of Remembrance for Japanese internment Democratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe House passes bipartisan bill to create women's history museum 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.

“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.”