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Holder faces questions on Capitol Hill

As the White House faces a trio of burgeoning controversies that have put the administration and agencies throughout Washington on the defensive, Attorney General General Eric Holder reiterated before a House panel Wednesday that he was not involved in the Justice Department's decision to seize two months of phone records from Associated Press journalists as a part of a leak probe.

LIVESTREAM: House Judiciary Committee hearing

The Justice Department has also opened an investigation into revelations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status for additional scrutiny. In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Holder said that prosecutors are looking at several different statutes in the investigation of those actions. 

He said those potential violations could include an IRS statute that requires employees to do their jobs without favoritism, civil rights laws, the Hatch Act that restricts a federal employee's political activities, or the law against making false statements to investigators.

“The facts will take us wherever they take us,” he added, promising a nationwide investigation. 

Asked about the leak probe, Holder confirmed that Deputy Attorney General James Cole authorized the subpoenas on AP reporters' phone records after Holder recused himself from the matter.

Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

Attorney General Eric Holder is sworn in during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill May 15, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Holder first announced Tuesday that he had recused himself from the AP leak probe because he had previously been questioned by the FBI about the intelligence breach.

He added Wednesday that he also turned over his own phone records as a part of that questioning. 

He told the committee that he recused himself because he was one of the “relatively limited number of people” who had first-hand knowledge of the leaked information – and also because he had more regular communication with reporters than Cole.

“I was a possessor of the information that was ultimately leaked,” he added. “And the question then is, who of those people who possessed that information – which was a relatively limited number of people  within the Justice Department – who of those people actually spoke in an inappropriate way to the Associated Press,” he added.

In response to questions, he said that he did not know the date of his recusal for certain and that there was not a written record of it.  He also said that the White House would not have been informed of the recusal. 

Holder has been widely criticized by Republicans for DOJ's handling of the matter, scrutiny Holder noted at the beginning of his remarks.

"The head of the [Republican National Committee] called for my resignation in spite of the fact that I was not the person who was involved in that decision," he said.

The routine Justice Department oversight hearing became a hot ticket after two scandals – the DOJ probe and the revelations about the IRS – erupted since the end of last week. The Obama administration also continues to be dogged by lingering questions over its administration’s response to the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi.

In opening remarks he was set to deliver before the House Judiciary Committee, Holder says the Justice Department “has taken critical steps to prevent and combat violent crime, to confront national security threats, to ensure the civil rights of everyone in this country, and to safeguard the most vulnerable members of our society.”

NBC's Pete Williams contributed to this report. 

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