Washington (CNN) - Embattled Attorney General Eric Holder's long-time friend Reid Weingarten, the high-powered Washington attorney, came to his defense Thursday telling CNN that off-the-record sessions with media executives were not meant as a mea culpa.
"This is not about Eric Holder giving his defense. This is a policy discussion Eric has been instructed to do by the president. He wants people to sit down and roll up their sleeves," Weingarten says. "This is not a charm offensive. This is substantive."
Holder invited news organizations to meet with him as part of a review of the Justice Department's guidelines for leak investigations. The offer of meetings became controversial-due to the department's insistence the sessions be off-the-record– and some organizations, including CNN, Fox News, The New York Times, the Associated Press and Reuters, refused to attend the sessions citing the restriction in the midst of an ongoing news story.
Several news organizations, including the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Politico and ABC News, decided to attend the meetings on Thursday and Friday. (The Justice Department late in the day Thursday authorized invited organizations to bring their attorneys.)
Holder won't comment directly on the matter, but Weingarten spoke out on his behalf.
"We have genuine, legitimate policy issues" that need to be discussed, he said. "We need to get at these horrible leaks and protect the First Amendment."
The controversies stem from leak investigations over classified information regarding North Korea reported by Fox News Reporter James Rosen and a separate investigation about a thwarted airliner bomb plot reported by the Associated Press. As part of these probes, the DOJ obtained journalists phone records as well as, in the case of Fox News, email records. The subpoena for the AP's phone records as well as the one for the Fox News reporter's personal emails were kept secret.
News organizations and many members of Congress have criticized Holder and the Obama administration for going too far in these investigations, using overly broad criteria-and secrecy–for their searches of the records.
Holder's allies take pains to point out the difficult-and competing– missions the Attorney General is trying to meet. "It is this agonizing dilemma you have in national security cases…you're obliged to investigate them aggressively," Weingarten says. But he also tells CNN that "Eric has always been a real First Amendment guy…the question is where do you draw the line."
Holder has been asked to deliver a report with his recommendations on possible changes by next month.
Where in the 1st Amendment does it authorize treason? If a reporter leaks highly classified intelligence data, and Americans die as a result, how is that different from military personnel providing the enemy intelligence?
Holder should be put in PRISON. Lied to congress which is a criminal offense.
The people that complained about what the Bush admin did are suddenly quiet (or defending this admin,'s actions) Hmmmmmm.
Let me see if I understand: Because he is so strongly supportive of a free press, the AG wants the press to promise not to report on their meeting with him on that subject. I think now I know how those evil computers on the alien planets used to feel when Captain Kirk would feed them illogical nonsense causing their circuits to overheat and burn up.
Alberto Gonzales ,
Occasionally the interests of the press and our criminal justice system collide, writes former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
More like making sure the administration still has a strangle hold on the media. Especially CNN.
Battered Wife Syndrome
First he woes her with kind words. After marriage, every move she makes is somehow wrong. All the old friends are a threat to the marriage. Finally when she is totally isolated, the physical abuse begins. Sounds like Obama and the Press to me. If I were Obama and Holder, I would become Bush and Gonzales.
Holder's meeting should be on the record for his own protection. He will be surrounded by a bunch of Truth stretchers, and anything said will be out faster than the the internet can carry it.
But this was all off the record correct? Why has CNN's integrity vanished? You should have taken a stand and reminded Obama about his pledge to have the most Open and Transparent administration ever and also not attended!!
But that would take integrity and you did the opposite...citing something as news that has no official record
Fox is slanted Right same as CNN and MSNBC slant Left
Ted Turner...start a new Open and Transparent NEWS organization....there seems to be a vacuum at the moment
is this crazy or not, a crime has been committed against our country, but no one seems to care. all their beef is why was the crime investigated. is this the America i know or this an alternative reality. what kind of precedent we are setting for the future of our country. i know about the first amendment, about freedom of speech and of the press, but their have to be a limit, especially when our country safety is in question.