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. uriel

    When a government has repeatedly and deliberately failed to follow its own laws, violated the fundamental human rights of its citizens, threatened the sanctity of a free press, created institutions intended to eliminate privacy of communication, waged war at the behest of special interest that threatens the public safety, killed hundreds of children with drone strikes, imprisoned and destroyed the lives of countless individuals for victimless crimes, stifled economic opportunity to maintain the dominance of the financial elite, stolen from the people through an absurd system of taxation and inflation, sold future generations into debt slavery, and abused its power to suppress political opposition, it is unfit to exist and it becomes the duty of the people to alter or abolish that government by whatever means necessary to secure liberty and ensure peace.

    May 28, 2013 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  2. CC

    This whole administration has done nothing but lie, blame others.

    May 28, 2013 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  3. James Weisinger

    “It seems to me clear that the actions of the department have in fact impaired the First Amendment,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said earlier this month. “Reporters who might have previously believed that a confidential source would speak to them would no longer have that level of confidence.”

    Liberal pundit Bill Press has joined in the call to remove Holder, tweeting that he should be fired.

    Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist and Fox News contributor, said what makes the recent criticism different from the Republican-led grilling over Fast and Furious, which was linked to the fatal shooting of a U.S. Border Patrol agent, is the bipartisan outcry.

    “You're starting to see Democrats join Republicans to call for (Holder's) resignation,” Trippi said. “Whenever you see both sides doing that, it means there's real trouble. It doesn't mean he's in trouble of having to be forced out or resigned yet. It means it's a lot more serious than other events he's had to take on.”

    May 28, 2013 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  4. Holly

    What?!?! Oh my god, say it isn't so! Lies under oath!?!? Eric Holder!?!? Impossible! Oops. Is my sarcasm showing? What will it take for Democrats to admit one of their leaders has screwed up?

    May 28, 2013 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  5. Jason

    He directly lied under oath about fast and furious to congress. Why is this a suprise. Our government spends millions of dollars prosecuting Roger Clemens for lying to congress without any good proof but our own attorney general lies to them about giving drug gangs guns and everyone turns a blind eye. He should have been fired a long time ago.

    May 28, 2013 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  6. FubarObama

    Liar liar pants on fire

    May 28, 2013 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  7. Dan5404

    The House Committee doesn't question whether Holder is guilty of lying. These committees make their decisions before any hearing is held, You are guilty, even if proven innocent. That's the good old REAL American way! Now, they just have to twist somebody's statements or interrupt and attack to try to force someone to agree with their foregone conclusion. It's the same with Benghazi and the IRS. The party of hate, obstruction and regression is hard at work doing something besides what they were elected for. Of course, they haven't done that job for one term already, and are well into another one. They are still trying to make Obama a "one term president", Wonder how that's working out for them?

    May 28, 2013 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  8. irememberallthelies

    You know what bothers me, all the info the govt deems classified. Under obama more and more becomes out of reach to the taxpaying public. They do Iit this way so contractors who have buddies on office can become millionares off tax money, or the govt employees/officials can take exotic vacations like obama, and so when the pooch gets screwed the public doesnt know the real story that would make heads roll. I think there is more to benghazi then theylet on. I know the US loves selling weapons to both sides of a war or dispute. Whats the best way to close down a program, have everyone dead because dead men cant tell tales. Im sure weapons and missles were sold to one side or the other and tthe top brass didnt want it known how they obtained these weapoons so everyone dies.

    May 28, 2013 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  9. Ghostwriter

    OK, I kinda see where this is coming from. But I don't think any reporters were prosecuted. Probably more like trying to get the leaker.

    May 28, 2013 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  10. uncdig

    Here we go again. Another Holder "mis-statement". Most reasonable Americans expect & deserve more than our head of the justice department misleading congressional watchdogs, There is a thing in the constitution that was designed to make sure one branch does not have the power or ability to abuse power – it is called separation of power. Holder deliberately misled the panel & America – but don't worry democrats – he wont be fired – Obama has yet to fire or direct any of his leaders caught doing the wrong thing fired.

    May 28, 2013 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  11. Ladokguy

    This is why it's best to "take the 5th" when called to testify before these bozos, their goal is to trip you up and set up a "lying to Congress" or "perjury" charge.

    May 28, 2013 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  12. hender1123

    And next they'll take up the issue of whether there is a tooth fairy or not.

    May 28, 2013 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  13. NotAGolfer

    Here's a better headline: "HOLDER LIED UNDER OATHE"

    May 28, 2013 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  14. DH

    The Repubs are desperate.

    May 28, 2013 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  15. Harry

    The Prez is Toast, just a matter of time now.

    May 28, 2013 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  16. cameron

    You libs do nothing but embarrass yourselves by continuously try to deflect blame. Pretty sad you take NO responsibility. Very typical for dems and this administration!!

    May 28, 2013 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  17. Mark

    So sad. This administration (like most administrations) is more concerned with the optics of a situation then with the moral choices.

    May 28, 2013 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  18. Mike

    Hey republiCONs where are the jobs bills? Where are the investigations into our crumbling infrastructure? Where are the ones speaking out to move your party along to things that actually matter to everyday working Americans?

    May 28, 2013 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  19. are122

    Holder should and probably will resign. More and more it comes out Obama is Number 1 a politician. Number 2, not much else.

    May 28, 2013 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  20. Monomachos

    Question for all of you Holder apologists: we're you equally fervent in defending the government during the Pentagon Paper and Watergate episodes? Sometimes governments do stupid things like trying to control the freedom of the press. The issue of freedom of the press is a lot more important than Holder's job.

    May 28, 2013 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  21. BO

    Of course he lied. He's been doing it from the start.

    May 28, 2013 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  22. warp7

    The angry hate filled GOP is at it again. Their new tactic, congressional investigations of anything and everything connected with the President. Sad thing is their mindless followers believe everything the GOP says! They can't beat the President at the polls so now they resort to abusing congressional power to hide the fact that they are a do nothing party right now who's only goal is to destroy the President. Too bad they are stuck on hate!

    May 28, 2013 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  23. warp7

    We need to get rid of the do nothing GOP Congress

    May 28, 2013 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  24. Jerry

    This moronic, serial liar needs to go NOW!!! Oops! Sorry... I forgot Hold(her) was trained by Obama in the art of lying and how to get away with it. How can Obama's blinder wearing supporters continue to help HIM continue this travesty is beyond me.

    Oh well...

    May 28, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  25. Deathstalker74

    Just amazing how many brain dead Obamabots there are out there. I knew we were presently plagued by low information voters aka idiots, but the Holder supporters on this forum who are desperately trying to spon his involvement and portray him as rhe victim really take this to a whole new level.

    May 28, 2013 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
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