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DOJ’s Phone Sweep of AP Reporters Draws Dual House Inquiries

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. was scheduled some time ago to testify on Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee on general issues relating to the agency he oversees.

Now, many members’ questions will almost certainly relate to Monday’s revelation that the Justice Department secretly obtained two months’ worth of phone records from Associated Press reporters and editors.

The hearing is also likely to serve as a prelude to a formal investigation that could be launched by the Judiciary Committee — and, perhaps, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, too.

California Republican Darrell Issa, chairman of the latter panel, which probes waste, fraud, abuse and misconduct among federal government agencies, told CNN’s “The Situation Room” on Monday afternoon that he expected Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., to take the reins of an official House action.

“From a constitutional standpoint, the First Amendment, it’s very clear that Judiciary will have the lead on this,” said Issa, who is also a member of  Judiciary. He added that he has “a fairly full plate” with investigations into the Benghazi attacks and alleged Internal Revenue Service misconduct, among other things.

However, in a follow-up statement later in the day, Issa signaled he might be more closely involved than he had previously suggested.

“This is obviously disturbing,” Issa said. “Coming within a week of revelations that the White House lied to the American people about the Benghazi attacks and the IRS targeted conservative Americans for their political beliefs, Americans should take notice that top Obama Administration officials increasingly see themselves as above the law and emboldened by the belief that they don’t have to answer to anyone.

“I will work with my fellow House Chairmen on an appropriate response to Obama Administration officials,” he said.

Goodlatte released a statement Monday evening putting Holder on notice: “Any abridgement of the First Amendment right to the freedom of the press is concerning. The House Judiciary Committee will thoroughly investigate this issue and will also ask Attorney General Eric Holder pointed questions about it at Wednesday’s oversight hearing.”

As with Friday’s upcoming Ways and Means Committee hearing on charges that the IRS disproportionately targeted Republican-leaning groups’ applications, news of the Justice Department’s actions are generating concern from Democrats as well.

“Concerned about #DoJ monitoring @AP,” tweeted Judiciary Committee member Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif. “I expect answers in Judiciary hearing on Wednesday.”

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