Attorney General Eric Holder testifies Thursday on Capitol Hill.
(Photo: J. Scott Applewhite, AP)
(CBS NEWS) Facing cries for his resignation from Republicans in Congress, embattled Attorney General Eric Holder shed some light Thursday on what might compel him to step down from his post as the nation's top law enforcement officer, citing "fatigue" - and the sense that he has accomplished his goals - as two factors that could weigh on his decision to stay or go.
Asked at a Senate committee hearing by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., when he might reach a "tipping point" and conclude that he cannot continue to effectively lead the Justice Department, Holder said, "The tipping point might be fatigue - you get to a point where you just got tired."
Beyond that, he said, "There are certain goals that I set for myself and for this department when I started back in 2009. When I get to a point where I think that I've accomplished all the goals that I set, I will sit down with the president and we will talk about a transition to a new attorney general."
"I think that change is frequently a good thing for an organization," Holder continued. "This has been the honor of my professional life, to serve as attorney general. But I also have such respect for the Department of Justice that I want to make sure that it operates at peak efficiency and that new ideas are constantly being explored. I'm proud of the work that I've done. I'm proud of the work that the men and women of this department have done under my leadership, and when the time comes for me to step aside for my successor, I will do so."
Holder, a frequent target of Republicans throughout his tenure atop the Justice Department, has more recently drawn fire due to his role in the department's surveillance of journalists as part of a leak probe.
In May, Holder told a House committee that he was not "involved in" the potential prosecution of journalists for publishing classified information, but it was later revealed that the attorney general had signed off on a search warrant allowing authorities to seize the records of Fox News correspondent James Rosen.
The administration has said that Rosen was never under any threat of prosecution and that Holder's testimony was therefore truthful, but congressional Republicans have raised the possibility that Holder lied under oath and called for him to step down.
In Thursday's hearing, Shelby referenced the questions about the "veracity" of Holder's testimony, saying the controversy has become "a significant distraction for this department" and noting that some have "even called for your resignation."
Prompted to respond, Holder assured Shelby that, "In spite of the recent controversies that you mention, the department is fully engaged in the work of protecting the American people."
"I go through a self-evaluation process almost on a daily basis," he said. "I have not done a perfect job. I think I have done a good job, but I'm always trying to do better."