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Attorney General Eric Holder angrily and pointedly referred to a famously embarrassing comment from Texas Rep. Louis Gohmert at the end of a contentious hearing on Tuesday. "Good luck with your asparagus," Holder said — an unusual but obvious dismissal of Gohmert's entire line of questioning.

Background is in order, obviously. Last May, Holder and Gohmert got into an argument at a House Judiciary Committee meeting. Gohmert, who's been consistently critical of the attorney general (if largely inconsistent on the reason for the critique), alleged that the Department of Justice had failed to prevent the Boston marathon bombing. Holder criticized Gohmert's characterization, and Gohmert, flustered, responded: "The attorney general will not cast aspersions on my asparagus." It was never clear what he meant or what he was trying to say, but the "asparagus" line became a running joke, with Gohmert as the target.

The hearing on Tuesday was perhaps more heated, as Gohmert questioned why he had not been provided with documents he requested — that, despite the House voting to hold Holder in contempt last June.

HOLDER: I think what we promised to do is to provide you and your staff with, uh —

GOHMERT: Sir, I've read you what your department promised and it is inadequate, and I realize that contempt is not a big deal to our attorney general, but it is important that we have proper oversight, so —

HOLDER: You don't want to go there, OK?

GOHMERT: I don't want to go there? About the contempt?

HOLDER: You should not assume that is not a big deal to me. I think that it was inappropriate, I think it was unjust. But never think that was not a big deal to me. Don't ever think that.

Gohmert, flustered, tried to pivot to a question about support for gay marriage. But his time soon ran out, letting Holder have the last word.

HOLDER: Good luck with your asparagus.

That comment is simple to explain. It was, as the kids say, an f-you, a not-subtle dig at Gohmert's reputation for exaggeration and confusion. It was an attempt to make Gohmert feel bad, to get under his skin. It was, in other words, punitive — not necessarily the sort of thing you want to see from America's main law enforcement official, particularly when he's being grilled by the committee that oversees his work.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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