Attorney General Eric Holder, grilled Thursday at a Capitol Hill hearing, declined to say whether his Justice Department was looking into allegations that the White House illegally offered a job to Rep. Joe Sestak in exchange for him getting out of the Pennsylvania Senate race.
Sestak, a Pennsylvania Democrat, leveled the charge in February, telling a Philadelphia television anchor he was offered the federal job to drop out of the primary race against Sen. Arlen Specter. Sestak did not withdraw and is still competing against Specter in Tuesday's election -- but the congressman has not elaborated on his charge publicly since the February interview.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has taken up the case. He called on Holder in late March to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the matter and on Thursday, hours into a House Judiciary Committee hearing, got his chance to press the attorney general.
Issa said the accusation would amount to "multiple felonies" and wanted to know what Holder was going to do about it. He said he was "deeply concerned," with the election just five days away.
Issa grew visibly frustrated as the attorney general declined to respond to his questions.
"It is the department's policy ... not to comment on pending matters," Holder said at the end of a tense back-and-forth. "That is not what we do."
Issa suggested Holder's reluctance to answer meant there was no investigation.
"You don't answer or apparently investigate. ... You're not investigating whether it's a false statement by a member of Congress or a crime by the White House. What are we to do?" he said.
Issa, earlier in the hearing, expressed frustration that the White House has responded to the charges with "the opinion of a non-attorney, a press secretary, that these were not problematic."
He was referring to a response from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs in March.
Gibbs said he talked to "people" in the White House about the claim and that, "I'm told whatever conversations have been had are not problematic." Gibbs said the matter was "in the past."
Issa also pressed Holder Thursday on why he apparently hadn't responded to his letter bringing the allegation to his attention. Holder insisted that he thought he had responded and apologized.
"It could be in the mail. It's very slow sometimes," Issa said.