"It almost pains me -- and please don't take this away from Senator Grassley's time -- it pains me that, as you said, we had a private conversation, you sent me a handwritten note -- that I took very seriously," a visibly frustrated Holder responded.
"You and I have worked together on a variety of issues, I think I have a good relationship with you, you sent me a handwritten note that I looked at, took seriously, referred that letter to [the Office of Professional Responsibility] or the [Office of the Inspector General] -- I'm not sure which of the two -- and asked them to try to find out what happened," Holder continued.
"I called you to try to indicate to you that I had taken that matter seriously, that action had been taken," Holder said. "In a different time in Washington, I'm not sure that necessarily what you just said would have been shared with everyone here, but so be it, it's a different time I suppose."
Grassley said that he told Holder during their phone conversation that if he didn't want him to ask the question, he should have informed his staff "because I worked very closely with my staff," and "give the details so that I would know that this would be an inappropriate question to ask at the hearing."
Late update: Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) were apparently concerned that a leaked document "contained information protected under the Privacy Act regarding ATF whistleblower John Dodson's participation in an undercover law enforcement operation."