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. Carl

    Holder's gone. Carney is next. Sooner or later they will get the "do nothing, hear nothing, know nothing" Obuma. Liberals – your chickens are coming home to roost!!

    May 28, 2013 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  2. greatwhitehope

    Its all a dog and pony show with smoke and mirrors. Dumb asks the question in just such a way so that Dumber can give a vague answer and all culpability is circumvented. Frankly I can't tell the difference between Obama and Bush. Both have big ears but can't hear. Policies are the same, scandals are the same. The only thing that comes out of their mouths is lies and excuses as to why they did not know what was happening in their own administrations!!!
    Same goes for the house and Senate. Vote them ALL out repeatedly!!!

    May 28, 2013 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  3. wade

    It is cute how CNN makes it seem like their is a QUESTION about this. Read his testimony. there is no question. HE LIED ! PERIOD!

    May 28, 2013 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  4. silentcount

    The guy swore under oath he knew nothing about it, but then his signature was later found on the search warrant. It's simply amazing there are still people who cling to their us versus them attitude over this. Do liberals not see what this is? And on the IRS thing, what if Romney had won, and then we later found out the IRS had targeted liberal democrats. Would it still be a non issue? Start being Americans first, instead of waving your party flag!

    May 28, 2013 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  5. ks

    How can we get Holder out of office-totally incompetent for the job.

    May 28, 2013 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  6. JC

    How come that only CNN and Fox bringing to the public the development in this case?, nothing said today on national news by NBC.

    May 28, 2013 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  7. LogicalSC

    Democrat government at its usual level...

    We are back to....."it depends on what the definition of is, is..."

    Of course, the Democrats mental ward Welfare Nation supporters are ranting about everything and anything EXCEPT that Eric Holder is caught once again as LYING piece of crapola who got the job because he lacks even a basic level of honesty, integrity and morality which he has already put well, well behind protecting the criminals of the Democratic Party.


    May 28, 2013 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  8. jay_hawk

    What judge or special court signed a search warrant for wire taps that the AG Holder needed for the wire taps and collecting information from personnel phones and news media. Have you heard of the 1st amendment and 4th amendment against illegal search and seizure? Holder is wrong and should be in prison along with anyone else involved.

    May 28, 2013 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  9. MaryM

    GOP overreach is obvious to the majority of Americans. This witch hunt is going nowhere

    May 28, 2013 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  10. CNeder

    The owebama puppet needs to be in jail. He is now lying to cover up lies about lies.

    May 28, 2013 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  11. TheJobIsMoreImportantTanHolder

    Has Holder engaged in something criminal here? Likely not – but the fact that there pretty clearly has been a politically driven effort by the administration (and Holder) to supress this story (that emerged BEFORE the election) is enough to foster a lack of confidence (by enough of the public: partisan Republicans or not: ALL still citizens) in the Justice Dept (just as the IRS 'scandal' – AND Bengazi has fostered a similar doubt in citizens trust in our growing government & leaderships ability to manage it).
    It's not about Holder: He can be replaced & because of that, SHOULD (willingly) go instead of not even recusing himself.
    That would disarm the political aspects of the story (if presented correctly) & free us all to reasonably assess if the current policies being tried by law enforcement are the best thing (long term) for the country.
    It's simply not about Holder: It's about what WE want America to be.
    Get it? (I have doubts as to whether the Administration – or the Republicans – do 'get it'.)

    May 28, 2013 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  12. jigglything

    Hhhm. Who else is calling for his ouster? Could it be democrats? Could it be liberal media? So Fox isn't the only media source saying he is unfit.

    May 28, 2013 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  13. TheJobIsMoreImportantThanHolder

    Obama CAN'T run for another term but they continue to act like they're in election mode.
    He' falling into the same (self created) trap that Clinton fell into! Stop campaigning... Stop behaving like we're dumb & you're the smartest person in the room (and 'know what is best for us' – because 'most of us do not').
    Obama has a tremendous gift for communicating which he COULD choose to use to be a true leader: and potentially a tremendous one at that... High praise from me – but honest – as I did NOT vote for him in either election... But lije Clinton (who had similar potential to be one of the great LEADERS of this nation's history) – he seems isolated, poll driven – and wasting his talents & the p
    opportunity to truly lead ALL of America (not just his partisan allies) – and make a HUGE difference...
    He can still do that: Asking Holder to step down to disarm this 'scandal' distraction would be a start.
    It's not about preserving Holder. (Trust me: He won't have any problem finding public sector work!)... He can be replaced in a heartbeat (which would defuse growing mistrust) & let Obama get on with transforming into the leader of ALL Americans. (Please!)

    May 28, 2013 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  14. Connie

    Why do the lawmakers need to probe whether Holder lied? Can't they look at his testimony on May 15 and determine whether he lied or not. Looks pretty obvious from where I'm sitting.

    May 28, 2013 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  15. Smarg

    I'd like to know why Obama and Holder can target whites (Tea Party amdFox News) and the media lets them get away with it.

    May 28, 2013 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  16. Name willard

    No No No vote support for clinton hillary. 2016 cause presdient obama eric holder and hillary are lied story what happened about benghzia

    May 29, 2013 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  17. Shelly Abraham's

    This administration is full of dishonesty. It is a disgrace to the office of the presidency.

    May 29, 2013 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  18. Anonymous

    @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.
    So you support not prosecuting or investigating those who intentionally leak classified information that can cause the loss of lives – particularly of our Servicemen? If you'll actuall read what Holder said his comment was not about prosecuting anybody – but rather getting a warrant to aid the investigation. Fox news has known about this for THREE YEARS! You and the other Fox News drones are on another disloyal witch hunt. Racism will do that to a person.

    May 29, 2013 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  19. Anonymous


    We need to get rid of Holder , Obama and Hillary
    We need to get rid of bigoted, ill-informed, xenophobic, fearful, conspiracy-based, anti-American neocons.

    May 29, 2013 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  20. swej

    Many people believe Holder is dumb. All things being equal he is a genius compared to the Republicans on this committee.

    May 29, 2013 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  21. pat

    2014 Democratic party theme song – "Don't run, we are your friends!" hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

    May 29, 2013 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  22. Getoverit

    Liberals: "Nothing to see here, move along..." LMFAO!

    May 29, 2013 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  23. Tim

    A question for the LIberals: Just how much corruption do you need to see out of Obama and his cronies before you stop and say, "Sorry, we were wrong. These guys do not deserve our support, and they do not deserve to be leaders of America."? How bad does it have to get before you can admit your failures?

    May 29, 2013 02:28 am at 2:28 am |
  24. DoNotWorry

    He's done worse than this, he has continued Bush's policy of Deferred Prosecution Agreements, whereby corporate executives never serve time for corporate crime. They just pay fines and promise to "do better." This policy has unleashed a wave of crime in unheard-of-before dimensions... the biggest criminals in the history of mankind.

    May 29, 2013 02:29 am at 2:29 am |
  25. ro1022

    What about Obama giving out top secret information on the seal team, which later on lost a lot of lives to the enemy, when his he held responsible?

    May 29, 2013 02:30 am at 2:30 am |
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