May 28th, 2013
04:06 PM ET
10 years ago

Lawmakers question whether Holder gave false testimony

Updated Wednesday 5/29 at 9:05 a.m. ET

(CNN) - The Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee is looking into whether Attorney General Eric Holder lied under oath earlier this month when he said he wasn't involved in the "potential prosecution of the press," two Republican committee sources confirmed Tuesday.

Though he testified in a May 15 Congressional hearing that he's "never heard of" the press being potentially charged for obtaining leaked material, it has since been reported that he signed off on the Justice Department's decision to seek a search warrant in 2010 for Fox News reporter James Rosen's private e-mails as part of a leak probe.

Holder's testimony this month came amid criticism of the Justice Department's investigation of Associated Press phone records as part of alleged leaks by government officials.

During the hearing, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Georgia, sought clarification from Holder, asking whether there was a law that would allow authorities to prosecute those who published leaked material. In response, Holder said "you've got a long way to go to try to prosecute the press" for doing so.

Johnson pointed to the Espionage Act of 1917, saying it would authorize the prosecution of anyone who disclosed classified information. The Obama administration has used the law multiple times to target suspected leakers, but it has not used the law to prosecute journalists.

"With regard to the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material – that is not something I've ever been involved in, heard of, would think would be wise policy," Holder said at the hearing.

"The focus should be on those people who break their oaths and put the American people at risk," he added. "Not reporters who gather this information. That should not be the focus of these investigations."

But given his knowledge of the 2010 probe into who allegedly leaked a classified document to Rosen–a story that broke last week–his comments from the May 15 hearing are now being questioned by the House Judiciary Committee, as first reported by The Hill.

An FBI affidavit used to obtain the warrant for Rosen's e-mails said there was probable cause the reporter had broken the law when he allegedly received a leaked classified report from a State Department contractor. The affidavit described Rosen as potentially being an "aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator" to the crime of disclosing government secrets, opening up criticism that the Obama administration was targeting Rosen.

However, the Justice Department did not prosecute Rosen, nor did it file charges against him. While he was listed as a "co-conspirator," that often times does not mean he would be considered a target.

Rep. John Conyers, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, defended Holder against the committee's decision to look into the attorney general's comments.

"I believe Attorney General Holder, who answered questions posed to him for over four hours, was forthright and did not mislead the Committee," the Michigan Democrat said.

"Certainly, there are policy disagreements as to how the First Amendment should apply to these series of leak investigations being conducted by the Justice Department, and that is and should be an area for the Committee to consider," he added. "However, there is no need to turn a policy disagreement into allegations of misconduct."

Facing questions over the administration's leak investigations, President Obama announced Thursday he has directed Holder to review federal guidelines for investigating leaks and reporters. That review will include assembling a panel of media representatives.

A Justice Department source says Attorney General Eric Holder will begin meetings with media representatives late this week to discuss how to deal with leak cases involving reporters. The source said Holder is expected to hold separate meetings with television and newspaper executives. The meetings could begin as early as Thursday.

The White House also publicly supported this month a law pushed by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, that would protect reporters under leak investigations.

Holder said Tuesday he is "not satisfied" with some of the guidelines on how prosecutors conduct leak investigations involving reporters.

"We're going to have a real frank, good conversation about this," Holder told reporters following a naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens. "And I think, we're going to make some changes because I'm not satisfied with where we are."

According to an article in the Daily Beast, aides to Holder said the attorney general is "beginning to feel a creeping sense of personal remorse" because he signed off on the search warrant for Rosen.

Fox expressed outrage that Rosen was characterized as a possible co-conspirator in the leak case against former State Department contractor Stephen Jin-Woo Kim. Kim allegedly leaked to Rosen a classified intelligence report about North Korea. His case has not yet gone to trial. Court documents also indicate prosecutors sought phone records for some Fox phone lines.

In the Associated Press case, the Justice Department obtained phone records for 20 phone lines as part of its investigation into a leak about a 2012 Yemen bomb plot. Holder recused himself in that investigation because investigators had interviewed him about the leak. His deputy attorney general authorized seeking the AP phone records, but there was no suggestion AP reporters broke laws.

Holder and other officials have said they are looking for the leakers and not targeting reporters.

"While both of these cases were handled within the law and according to Justice Department guidelines they are reminders of the unique role the news media plays in our democratic system, and signal that both our laws and guidelines need to be updated," Holder told the Daily Beast in an interview.

Holder said it's an opportunity to "consider how we strike the right balance between the interests of law enforcement and freedom of the press."

Filed under: Eric Holder • House
soundoff (251 Responses)
  1. just sayin

    of course he lied. he's been lying for 4.5 years now. this incompetent idiot needs to be fired immediately. somebody this dumb would never be hired in the real world.

    May 28, 2013 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  2. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Oh yes! Another fabricated scandal on behalf of the do-nothing republiKlan Congress.

    May 28, 2013 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  3. Wake up People!

    Here we go again...... Let's just ignore the fact that important information was leaked, let's go after Holder.......

    Reminds me of Benghazi..... Let's forget the people that actually committed the act, let's go after the administration about what they called the attack right after it happened.

    It's clear to me now, the GOP has absolutely no plans to work with this POTUS, their only plan is to bring him down. Basically put him and AG Holder in their places.

    May 28, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  4. Gorbashov - Long Beach, Ca.

    Don't expect the psychologically imbalanced Republican leadership in the House to try and find or even care about that "balance". It's all about "gotcha" legislative "investigating", ah comrade Issa?

    May 28, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  5. cuisinemanager

    God Grief, he lied, it is on video, it has been on the news. What more do you need. Does Holder have to come to some ones house and steal money before people believe he is not an honest man! Oh yeah this is just the media protecting the Obama administration!

    May 28, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC

    I heard Morning Java this morning suggest that the Obama administration has been "criminalizing journalism". Give me a break. When reporters are involved with national security leaks, NOT WHISTLE BLOWING, then they are committing crimes. It is those few bad apples who are "criminalizing journalsm", not the justice department seeking to prosecute those misdeeds.

    Demonizing the Justice Department for doing its' job is not good. The real issue of national security leaks are being swept under the rug in pursuit of demonizing AG Holder. The only way to end these witch hunts is to vote the players out of office..

    May 28, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  7. Walt M

    Here we go again more faux outrage from the Conservative noise machine at Faux "News" manipulating "Conservative" Congressmen to go after anyone in the Administration they think they can get for doing or saying something illegal even though what Holder said was true.

    Only an idiot and/or biased Conservative would think he's lying when comparing the testimony to what happened.

    May 28, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    "that he's "never heard of" the press being potentially charged for obtaining leaked material"

    That's a blatant mischaracterization of what he said and CNN is avoiding putting the full quote there because it's not as sensational as this mischaracterization. Holder said:

    "In regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material - this is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy.”

    POTENTIAL PROSECUTION. Rosen was characterized in an affidavit by a law enforcement agent as a "co-conspirator." That's true, but it can also be used in the colloquial sense. But there's ZERO indication that the intention was ever to charge Rosen and prosecute him or anything of the sort. The target was the leak. Rosen was never arrested. He's never been prosecuted. There is no indication whatsoever that either of those things is ever likely to happen or was ever the intent of the investigation. Moreover, Holder's statement is pretty vague, which makes a perjury charge even more ridiculous.

    This is just he usual morphing from a GOP/Teatroll witchhunt for supposed wrong doing into their favorite consolation prize of perjury. It's an admission they've got nothing. It's like Bozo's Big Top...and if the only thing they can get out of it is a Giant Tootsie Roll instead of a small table piled with toys and board games, because they couldn't bounce a ping pong ball into a shot glass from 50 yards, then dad-gummit that's what they'll be happy with trying to get.

    May 28, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  9. uriel

    You obot lapdogs will say anything to defend these worthless leaders.....if you dont see now that this white housed is rotten to the core youe never will.....morons

    May 28, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    So here's another step-by-step instruction manual:

    1. Leak falsified notes on Banghazi emails to the press in order to bolster claims that a massive witch-hunt-style investigation in absolutely necessary, complete with days and days of testimony, 20+ classified debriefings, 25,000 pages of docs produced and even the emails you falsified being made public, revealing that you falsified them in order to trump up your allegations with the help of the MSM.

    2. Accuse the other side of providing false testimony/evidence when you can't prove any real wrong-doing.

    May 28, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  11. Ol' Yeller

    @just sayin' "this incompetent idiot needs to be fired immediately. somebody this dumb would never be hired in the real world."
    Hahahahahaahah, hahahahaha, hahahahahaa, How easily you forget bush's personal attorney (alberto) fumbling through his term with absolutely no knowledge of what he was supposed to be doing other than defending the administration. At least Holder has attempted to do his job and the only thing holding him back is that every move he makes results in shouts and accusations of misconduct, lying, and criminal offenses. Pathetic.

    May 28, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  12. Maria Rivera-Carvalho

    Voters question why members of Congress keep getting paid without doing anything to earn their huge salaries.

    May 28, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  13. Caumont

    Its all right Holder does not know he authorized the Rosen taps. If it was MSNBC or some other water carriers it would never have happened and he would have remembered. Holder is a joke and its amazing he is AG. Lies nor incompetence no longer apply to retained top jobs in the Obama administration.

    May 28, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  14. The Real Tom Paine

    -just sayin

    of course he lied. he's been lying for 4.5 years now. this incompetent idiot needs to be fired immediately. somebody this dumb would never be hired in the real world.
    Quit projecting your personal experiences onto the situation.

    May 28, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  15. The Real Tom Paine


    You obot lapdogs will say anything to defend these worthless leaders.....if you dont see now that this white housed is rotten to the core youe never will.....morons
    Learning to spell would help your credibility, sir. It would appear as though you would object to everything they do out of reflex, so what does that make you? A rightie wind-up doll?

    May 28, 2013 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  16. Romney is STILL NOT My Hero

    I went on a vacation and came back to yet another so-called scandal!!! This is getting old. Is this how the repubs intend to act throughout the whole 2nd term of our president? They keep digging and digging but come up empty handed every time.

    May 28, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  17. Tampa Tim

    You Limbaugh lapdogs will make up crap, just to defend the republican culture of corruption. The GOP has almost destroyed America, and desperately want to take the rest of the world down as well, one country at a time.

    May 28, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  18. PaulCat

    ......W M D's........and who's in JAIL?

    May 28, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  19. james

    We need to get rid of Holder , Obama and Hillary

    May 28, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  20. don in albuquerque

    Of course he lied. And all Saddams WMDs are hidden miles beneath the sand just waiting for his big heavenly comeback (kind of like the King Arthur fable). Just wait, you'll see. We Be Hillbillies (aka. GOTP).

    May 28, 2013 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  21. penguin

    One can issue a criminal subpoena with no intent to prosecute the person subpoened. So where is Holder's lie? It is a shame that people get prosecuted for lieing, but nobody ever gets prosecuted for the crime investgated (e.g. Martha Stewart and Scooter Libby) Our Congress is a jokey

    May 28, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  22. Name willard

    Presdient obama was fault leak at. White house cause china trying steal weapon from us

    May 28, 2013 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  23. Johnp40

    Liar, liar, Holder's pants are on fire.

    May 28, 2013 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  24. rosethornne

    "Blah blah blah blah blahbitty blahbitty blah"

    – GOPper talking –

    May 28, 2013 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  25. Richard Long

    Yet again, another fine example of the government hiding the truth and blatantly lying to US citizens and the world.
    Where were the WMD's?
    Did Holder order the investigation of reporters?
    Did the IRS target political groups?
    Was Benghazi just a bunch of YouTube protestors?

    We'lll NEVER know the real truth.

    May 28, 2013 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
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