(NBC News) Facing a media firestorm from on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder shed little light on the secret gathering of phone records from reporters at the Associated Press.
"I don't have a factual basis to answer the questions you have asked because I was recused," Holder testified before Congress. "I don't know what has happened."
The nation's top law enforcement officer recused himself from an investigation into high-level news leaks, but lawmakers are nonetheless demanding the story behind the story.
"We don't know where the buck stops, and I think to do adequate oversight, we'd better find out and we'd better find out how this mess happened," said Representative Jim Sensenbrenner.
50 top media outlets signed a letter slamming what amounts to spying on the press, saying:
"None of us can remember an instance where such an overreaching dragnet for news gathering materials was deployed by the Department."
"It befuddles me that there can be some justification that will allow them to infringe on the First Amendment to the Constitution," House Speaker John Boehner added.
Republicans created an ad that recalls President Obama's promises for a more transparent government.
Instead, the Obama White House has taken the protection of secrets to a new level.
Offering an olive branch to the media, the White House announced that it's asked the Senate to reconsider a bill to protect journalists and their sources.
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