Holder runs into roadblocks on off-the-record meetings on leaks
May 29th, 2013
11:20 PM ET
1 year ago

Holder runs into roadblocks on off-the-record meetings on leaks

Updated at 12:38 p.m. ET on Thursday 5/30

Washington (CNN) - Attorney General Eric Holder's plans to sit down with media representatives to discuss guidelines for handling investigations into leaks to the news media have run into trouble.

The Associated Press issued a statement Wednesday objecting to plans for the meetings to be off the record. "If it is not on the record, AP will not attend and instead will offer our views on how the regulations should be updated in an open letter," said Erin Madigan White, the AP's media relations manager.

The New York Times is taking the same position. "It isn't appropriate for us to attend an off-the-record meeting with the attorney general," executive editor Jill Abramson said in a statement.

Like the New York Times and the Associated Press, CNN will decline the invitation for an off-the-record meeting. A CNN spokesperson says if the meeting with the attorney general is on the record, CNN would plan to participate.

The Huffington Post's Washington bureau chief, Ryan Grim, also said he will not attend unless the meeting is on the record. "A conversation specifically about the freedom of the press should be an open one. We have a responsibility not to betray that," Grim told CNN.

But Politico posted an item on its website saying editor-in-chief John Harris plans to attend one of the meetings with Holder.

"As editor-in-chief, I routinely have off-the-record conversations with people who have questions or grievances about our coverage or our newsgathering practices," Harris said in the Politico item. "I feel anyone - whether an official or ordinary reader - should be able to have an unguarded conversation with someone in a position of accountability for a news organization when there is good reason."

Representatives for the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post will both attend the meeting.

“I prefer that any meeting be on the record," said Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron. "That said, journalists routinely participate in off-the-record sessions, whether they prefer those conditions or not, and then continue to report on events. I am going to this meeting in order to represent our interests as journalists and to raise our concerns. I'll also listen to what the Attorney General has to say. I trust that our journalists will report on this as vigorously as they would any other subject.”

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A Justice Department official said Wednesday the sessions would be off the record to encourage a full exchange of ideas.

President Barack Obama directed the attorney general to review guidelines for investigations involving leaks to the media and said Holder would be meeting with journalists to get their views.

This comes in the wake of disclosures that the government obtained AP phone records after the news organization reported classified details of a thwarted 2012 plot in Yemen to try to blow up a plane with a bomb. The government also obtained e-mails and phone records for a Fox journalist who allegedly received a classified report on North Korea from a former State Department contractor.

A Justice Department official said Holder would hold his first meetings with the media on Thursday and Friday.

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The official said the attorney general has a "longstanding belief that protecting and defending the First Amendment is essential to our democracy."

The official said the sessions would include print, television, radio, wire services and online media.

–Jesse Solomon, Jim Acosta and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.

MORE: 5 things about the controversy surrounding AG Eric Holder


Filed under: Eric Holder • Justice Department
soundoff (684 Responses)
  1. fnfal

    The AP, Huffblo and CNN have been carrying this administration's water, and attending private meetings for over 5 years now.

    This is all smoke and mirrors.

    May 30, 2013 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  2. johnnyapples

    "As editor-in-chief, I routinely have off-the-record conversations with people who have questions or grievances about our coverage or our newsgathering practices," Harris said in the Politico item. Of course he does. Otherwise, how foolish would he and Politico looks being "on the record" responding "we made it up" or "we repeated the Whitehouse talking points?"

    May 30, 2013 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  3. Johnny 5

    This reminds me of when Bush and Cheney testified off the record and behind closed doors on the events of 9/11. This country is in big trouble my friends.

    May 30, 2013 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  4. craig

    What happens to an editor if they write about the off the record meeting?

    May 30, 2013 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  5. Slick

    What a wasted opportunity. A good investigative journalist would attend the meeting and then publish a detailed transcript of everything that was said. That's how you achieve Transparency.

    May 30, 2013 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  6. teri

    Your all a bunch of cowards! Oh sure! He's a master at deflection. I think a man who lies and cheats is a coward.

    May 30, 2013 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  7. Jerry Lapple

    It has been obvious for some time that Holder has been and is operating out of the same "playbook" as the once infamous J. Edgar Hoover............He knows where it's "buried" and who buried it! Simply and uncomplicated, he's got a "ton" on the major players and shows it with his cockey arrogance!

    May 30, 2013 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  8. Tomkay

    Off the record, translation, "you guys sit down,shut up, and just take notes."

    May 30, 2013 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  9. blueskiesmom

    Does Politico also have off-the-record meetings with perjurers? We the people don't need "a free exchange of ideas" – ideas to do what? – we deserve the unfiltered truth. A free exchange of ideas not based on the truth is just another shell game.

    May 30, 2013 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  10. Whoanelly

    Im shocked, I guess the MSM does have a backbone. Maybe the recent betrayal by there masters has made them see the light.

    To the MSM, I am impressed, but you have a long way to go before you get to a place where you will be considered unbiased. But please keep on coming this way. This country needs it.

    May 30, 2013 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  11. sargesgiftshop.com

    Holders lied so much he's afraid to go "on the Record", with anyone.

    May 30, 2013 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  12. Anthony

    Ahem. Both the Press and the IRS have special Amendments giving them broad freedoms putatively to be used for benefit of everyone else. It's interesting to be on the bench nursing our small cup of remaining freedoms gruel, symbolic stick musket with barrel pennant in hand, watching the Big Money Guy in a grudge match in the Lilliput Stadium.
    Go Press. Rah!

    May 30, 2013 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  13. Moore Green

    I am finally proud of the press that is taking a stand.
    Keep it up!

    May 30, 2013 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  14. marsha ross

    Politico wants to gaze into the eyes of its master and get marching orders. The surprise is that only Politico so far is eager to kiss the ring. Tells us a lot. I guess since Politico does not care about being manipulated and used to get out the latest lie that should tell the reader to distrust anything written by the editors.

    May 30, 2013 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  15. S. Santori

    Politico is just another Obama mouthpiece. Any honest and true journalist would absolutely NOT attend this egregious meeting.

    May 30, 2013 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  16. AbortionProphecy.wordpress.com

    Even after being caught they are STILL trying to CONSPIRE and manipulate. Except now Barry and his banana republic co-conspirators are trying to DRAW the PRESS into the web of deceit. I M P E A C H already.

    May 30, 2013 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  17. Bob Wilke

    Wow, the head of Law Enforcement for "the most transparent Administration in the history of the country" wants to meet with the press in a private "Off the Record" session. Just what part of "transparent" doesn't Holder understand?

    May 30, 2013 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  18. MerphisEllis

    Of course Politico is in bed with Obama & Holder.

    May 30, 2013 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  19. ConservativeInVirginia

    I have NO sympathy for the Press on this AP/Rosen matter. They have done it to themselves by giving this President a FREE PASS since he first announced he was running for President. You have treated him like the Messiah and you shouldnt be surprised when he falls into the "absolute power corrupts absolutely" category...had you reported properly, he would not have felt as though he could do ANYTHING he wants–INCLUDING coming after you-the press- with impunity.

    May 30, 2013 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  20. Bob

    A "longstanding belief". When did he come to it?

    May 30, 2013 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  21. david

    What are they trying to hide? Why would you have an off the record press meeting at all? How dumb do they think we are?

    May 30, 2013 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  22. WriteGuy

    It sure is hard to have a dog and pony show when the perforrmers don't show up.

    May 30, 2013 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  23. Marge3

    Holder has no shame...;pure arrogance in his quest to maintain power.

    May 30, 2013 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  24. Jeff

    I would agree to go and secretly record the meeting and publish it. Off the Record means they will be truthful for once. and it is the media's job to force the people in power to tell the truth.

    May 30, 2013 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  25. Joe College

    The administration is conditioning the press to follow orders. The press will be told what to say and what to not say. The press will be expected to obey like animals.

    May 30, 2013 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
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