Lawmakers' frustration with Attorney General Eric Holder over an ongoing security leak probe and the botched Fast and Furious gunrunning operation boiled over Tuesday, with a top Republican lawmaker calling on Holder to resign.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, made the call for Holder's resignation during a Senate hearing late Tuesday morning. It came in the context of GOP concerns about Holder's decision to appoint two lawyers from within his department to handle the politically sensitive leak probe -- as well as concerns about Fast and Furious.
"I would say that you leave me no alternative but to join those that call upon you to resign your office," Cornyn said. "Americans deserve an attorney general that will be honest with them, they deserve an attorney general who will uphold the basic standards of political independence and accountability. You've proven time and time again, sadly, that you're unwilling to do so."
Holder in response accused Republicans of playing politics, and specifically accused Cornyn of "breathtaking" inaccuracies.
"I don't have any intention of resigning," he said.
Holder was enduring another rough day on Capitol Hill -- one day after a House panel announced it would schedule a vote next week on contempt proceedings.
Cornyn, in an interview with Fox News, said Tuesday he was frustrated with the "culmination of stonewalling." He also accused Holder of trying to provide "political cover" for the administration in the leak investigation.
Cornyn's statements coincided with a move by two other senators to push legislation demanding a special prosecutor in the leak probe. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., unveiled the measure on the Senate floor, claiming the U.S. attorneys appointed by Holder do not have the necessary professional distance to probe Obama administration leaks.
McCain is also standing by his assertion that the leaks were politically motivated, a charge the White House strongly denies.
Despite a growing sense of bipartisan outrage over the leaks themselves, though, Democrats blocked the GOP resolution Tuesday. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was among those who opposed the measure. She defended the professionalism and independence of the attorneys Holder selected.
Holder, testifying Tuesday morning before the Senate Judiciary Committee, defended his handling of the case and said the attorneys he assigned to the leak case are up to the job.
"These U.S. attorneys are fully authorized to consult with members of the intelligence community, to follow all appropriate leads wherever they do lead, and ultimately to prosecute any criminal violations to the fullest extent of the law," he said. "They will do an independent and thorough job."
Holder said unauthorized leaks of classified information could jeopardize security and "will not be tolerated." Holder said the allegations "are of great concern to me personally."
Recent leaks have contributed to several recent news stories about secretive programs, including two New York Times stories -- one on President Obama's involvement in shaping the list of terror targets for U.S.-led drone strikes, the other on the cyber-campaign to disrupt Iran's nuclear program.
The leaks, and the subsequent investigation announcement, have prompted a political firestorm on Capitol Hill. Republicans have charged that top officials in the Obama administration cleared the leaks in order to furnish information to reporters that would help make the president look strong in an election year.
"It was obvious from reading the stories that the administration is trying to give the president glory," Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told Fox News on Monday.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called that idea "wrong and absurd."
Ahead of Holder's testimony Tuesday, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, challenged the attorney general on his assigning of "political appointees" to the case. He, too, called for an independent special prosecutor.
"Despite attempts to package this as a special prosecutor, the attorney general's decision treats the grave national security matter like a regular criminal investigation," Grassley said.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., though, supported Holder's decision, describing the investigators as "tough, honest prosecutors."
Holder said he has "great faith" in them, and said he's charged them to follow leads wherever they go, even into the Executive Branch.