United States Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the National Action Network convention in New York, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Attorney General Eric Holder is clearly still incensed by a tense exchange with Rep. Louie Gohmert (R, Texas) yesterday during a House Judiciary Committee hearing.
“The last five years have been defined by significant strides and by lasting reforms, even in the face of unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly and divisive adversity,” he told hundreds gathered in New York City for the National Action Network’s annual conference. “If you look at the way the attorney general of the United States was treated yesterday by a House committee – it had nothing to do with me, forget that – what attorney general has had to deal with that kind of treatment?”
Back in 2012 Holder become the first Justice Department head in American history to be held in contempt of Congress. After the Republican-led measure passed, many Democrats walked out of the House in protest. The action was taken in response to the Justice Department’s refusal to turn over certain documents tied to the failed Fast and Furious gun-running sting.
The “treatment” to which Holder referred today was Gohmert’s remark at the hearing while questioning the attorney general about his apparent reluctance to hand over documents relating to the prosecution of a Texas-based Islamic charity. As MSNBC reported:
“I realize that contempt is not a big deal to our attorney general, but it is important that we have proper oversight,” Gohmert said.
Holder snapped back: “You don’t want to go there buddy, all right? You don’t want to go there, OK?”
“I don’t want to go there?” Gohmert responded.
“No,” insisted Holder.
“About the contempt?” Gohmert asked. “You should not assume that this is not a big deal to me. I think that it was inappropriate. I think it was unjust. But never think that that was not a big deal to me. Don’t ever think that.”
Wednesday while speaking in New York at the event organized by Rev. Al Sharpton, Holder also addressed a number of issues important to the many activists in the audience, including racial profiling (it’s “wrong”) and voter access ( he said the administration would support lawmakers from both sides of the aisle “as they seek to fill the void left” by the Supreme Court ruling that struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965).
He also called out racial disparities in sentencing, mentioning a 2013 report by the U.S. Sentencing Commission that black men receive sentences that are 20% longer than those of white men convicted of similar crimes. “Such outcomes are not only shameful and unacceptable and impede our ability to see that justice is done.” He said the Justice Department had created a working group of U.S. Attorneys to study the problem.