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. Me

    Third Eagle of the Apocalypse

    This (and may many other examples) is why the GOP is known as the stupid party. Even some republicans acknowledge they are seen this way.

    I hate to break it to you but it is only known by that name on this new media blogs, in the real world it is just the opposite!!! Wake up and start thinking for yourself and stop drinking the kool-aid!!!!

    May 29, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  2. Jack Blackburn

    Name Willard

    He's the poster boy for the REPUBLICAN'S...

    May 29, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  3. sly

    Holder is a true Patriot – seeking those Republicans in the press who leaked national security secrets regarding terrorist attacks.

    As an American I say: God Bless Mr. Holder for standing up for America's safety. Shame on the press for putting American lives at risk.

    May 29, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  4. MCFx

    Surprises me how many here think that this is ALL Republicans "drumming up" a scandal. All you have to do is watch some of the LIBERAL journalists and you'll get the real sense of how serious this is. Shiffer, Shulz, Matthews. You're even losing Jon Stewart. Even Leno is getting in on the mix and hammering Obama. Of course, you won't get NBC or CBS news doing any investigative reporting on any of this. Even this story here on CNN is 23rd on the page. I mean...CNN is still milking the TORNADO story!!!

    May 29, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  5. funhouse

    Yep this is bushes fault too right. I am not a republican and I can see the problem here. Our dictator will stay in power along with his crones. Hile Obama. Give me a break. I'm sure cnn will cut this out but come on.

    May 29, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  6. PeterD

    Is it just me or you also. But more and more it looks like The Liberal American Meidas are working for Obama Administration and not to inform American People.

    May 29, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  7. John

    This is hilarious.......bloggers are complaining about the "liberal American press", when it is that exact press who is complaining about Obama's policy over-reach....You can't have it both ways....either the press is in his pocket or ticked off about his over-reach....which is it?

    May 29, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  8. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    So what's illegal about Holder's subpoena? Holder got a warrant to conduct the subpoena, thereby making it legal. Under GWB's WARRANTLESS NSA surveillance program from 2001 to 2007, phone records, conservations, emails, text messaging, web browsing and bank transactions of millions of ordinary Americans not linked to any form of terrorism were monitored and stored. O' and Bush claimed the surveillance was for national security reasons. My question to conservatives: So what makes Bush's warrantless program legal and Holder's warrant approved subpoena illegal?

    May 29, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  9. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer – So you're OK with Obama being as bad as Bush I see. Is there an argument or point there?

    May 29, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  10. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer – Were you against the patroit act before you were for it? Personally I've always been against it.

    May 29, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  11. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Democrats are used to being lied to hence them backing Holder and Obama like they are.

    May 29, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  12. julnor

    Just becuase I personally signed off on something doesn't mean I know anything about it.

    May 29, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  13. Tom

    How can CNN even report this... don't they know Justin Bieber did something, somewhere. Where is their journalistic integrity! At least they did their best to bury this story. The liberals can't handle the truth...

    May 29, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  14. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    @ Liberal Sense

    I was against the Patriot Act too. But under the Obama administration, the 1978 FISA Act requiring a warrant to conduct surveillance for national security purposes and which was amended in 2008 has been adhered to. In 2008 the Justice Department acknowledged that NSA had engaged in "overcollection" of domestic communications in excess of the FISA court's authority.

    May 29, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  15. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    So far conservative have been unable to answer my surveillance question. Then I have another quest: What makes GWB's 2006 Fast and Furious sting operation legal and Obama's 2009 continuation of the 2006 sting operation illegal?

    May 29, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  16. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    The IRS is Obama's SS lead by Holder?

    Pathetic admnistration.

    May 29, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  17. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer – Sorry but they both are misusing it to their advantages.

    If you can't see that....................

    May 29, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  18. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Still waiting for a response...

    May 29, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  19. The Real Tom Paine

    -Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Democrats are used to being lied to hence them backing Holder and Obama like they are.
    This coming from the self-confessed opponant of the Patriot Act? Please. The GOP accepted Ed Meese, Dick Thornburgh, and Alberto Gonzalez without complaint, even when they ran the Bill of Rights through a shredder. Has it occurred to you that there is something else here that this House Committee is looking for? They don't give a damn about the truth, only what points they can score prior to the Midterms and how it can affect the 2016 race. Save your weak, phony outrage for the echo chamber you live in: most people don't care. They want their government to function, not be paralysed by McCarthy-lite and his oversight committee. Too bad the GOP was never this committed to oversight when they ran all 3 branches of government.

    May 29, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  20. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    @Liberal Sense

    NO, the Obama administration has NOT misused FISA nor violated it because so far, no American phone records, conversations, text messaging, emails, web browsing or bank transactions have been monitored or stored without just cause or without a warrant as was the case under GWB.

    May 29, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  21. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    The same republicans who are exploiting the Benghazi tragedy and accusing the Obama administration of withholding emails, supported the Bush administration in its shredding of emails during the Libby federal trial and during the 2007 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing regarding the sudden dismissal of 8 U.S. Attorneys. And during their leadership, private non governmental email servers were used to conduct official government business in violation of the 1978 Presidential Records Act and the 1939 Hatch Act. And from 2002 to 2007, over 5 million Bush White House emails were destroyed, affecting the above investigations. Pot calling the kettle black.

    May 29, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  22. MCFx

    Let's see if this truth takes sticks...

    OBAMA LIED !!!

    May 29, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  23. Mike

    I believe Holder. Democrats sign stuff they don't know or understand all the time. Just look at Obamacare.

    May 29, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  24. Just a dude

    I'm looking at this and seeing nothing. He said he wasn't involved with the "potential prosecution of the press." In this country, it is pretty much impossible to prosecute the press for doing their job, because of the first amendment, unless there is like a clear video with sound showing the investigator blackmailing whoever he is receiving information from. It is highly likely therefore that he did not lie under oath, as prosecuting the press should never have come up. Did you guys even read this article, because you sound like you are arguing about something irrelevant.

    May 29, 2013 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  25. Just a dude

    And MCFx, tell us exactly when Obama lied, what he said, exactly, and what he lied about, or you have no idea what your talking about.

    May 29, 2013 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
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