Republican lawmakers are considering whether to haul Attorney General Eric Holder back before a House committee over questionable testimony he provided on the Justice Department's surveillance of reporters, threatening to subpoena the nation's top law enforcement officer if necessary.
Leaders of the House Judiciary Committee have given Holder until Wednesday to answer questions about his May 15 testimony.
A senior Justice Department official told Fox News on Monday that Holder will respond by the deadline -- though it's unclear whether that response will satisfy lawmakers' concerns about his May 15 comments.
At the time, the attorney general said under oath he knew nothing of the "potential prosecution" of the press. Days later, it emerged that Holder was involved in his department's successful effort to obtain Fox News reporter James Rosen's personal emails -- the DOJ sought access to the documents by arguing Rosen was a likely criminal "co-conspirator" in a leak case.
"I can't think of a more chilling effect on the news media," Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., told Fox News.
Sensenbrenner and Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., want Holder to clarify his testimony, claiming it appears to conflict with his department's actions.
Sensenbrenner said his committee is prepared to compel Holder to explain if he doesn't make the Wednesday deadline.
"I think we ought to subpoena the attorney general to come back and answer those questions specifically," he told Fox News, when asked what happens if Holder misses the deadline.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., agreed.
He told Fox News on Monday that Holder "absolutely" should return to the committee to explain his May 15 comments.
The department, as well as the White House, have sought to defend Holder against the criticism. A Justice Department official last week explained that since no journalist was ever charged, Holder's testimony was "consistent" with the facts.
"At no time during the leak case ... have prosecutors sought approval to bring criminal charges against the reporter," the official said.
Republicans, many of whom want Holder to step down or be fired over this and other scandals, have stopped short of accusing Holder of perjury.
Sensenbrenner acknowledged that "getting a perjury rap is really hard" when it comes to convincing a jury.
But he said: "He may have done so, and I think we need some more information."
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said Sunday that his panel was, in fact, investigating Holder's remarks.
"It's fair to say we're investigating the conflict in his remarks, those remarks were made under oath," Goodlatte told "Fox News Sunday."
According to a report in The New York Times, some in the West Wing are now privately telling associates they wish Holder would step down.
As Holder faces pressure from Capitol Hill, he is trying to reach out to members of the media as part of a department-wide review of its policies governing investigations that involve journalists.
Aside from the emails sought from Rosen, the department obtained phone records from Fox News and Associated Press lines in the course of two separate leak investigations.
Both Fox News and the AP sat out sessions last week that Holder held with members of the media, citing the department's call for the meetings to be held off-the-record. The department subsequently eased off those restrictions slightly, in meeting with media representatives last Thursday and Friday.