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. kev

    So sick of the witch hunt. The gop are out of control.

    May 29, 2013 03:39 am at 3:39 am |
  2. Don P

    Another crook caught

    May 29, 2013 04:07 am at 4:07 am |
  3. David Stuart

    James–and the rest of you does not simply "get rid" of a sitting President or a former Secretary of State....if you don't like them, you just don't vote for them. Its a novel concept called "Democracy"...and don't forget that the only convicted criminal in that hearing room was Daryl there's a strong example of why some citizens might be leery of these proceedings....

    May 29, 2013 05:46 am at 5:46 am |
  4. Free Man in the Republic of texas

    WE are The OBAMA Cartel

    WE can NOT lie

    WE will sick the IRS on anyone who says such things

    May 29, 2013 05:56 am at 5:56 am |
  5. hmfic

    can anyone please explain exactly what "classified document" Mr. Rosen was involved in leaking?

    May 29, 2013 06:16 am at 6:16 am |
  6. Nick

    I suppose he may have 'lied' but I'll bet he chose his 'weasel words' carefully so perjury is not likely to be an issue...

    May 29, 2013 06:24 am at 6:24 am |
  7. FubarObama

    This guy gives false testimony everyday

    May 29, 2013 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
  8. Reality Check

    Holder should do the right thing and resign....

    May 29, 2013 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  9. dave richman

    Holder lied to congress under oath. This is enough to end any remaining trust in the DOJ. He can no longer lead something as important at the DOJ.

    May 29, 2013 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  10. just wondering

    when a partys base believes that the president of the united states is a kenyan, born, muslim and that creationism is false and the earth is only 6000 years old.... That kind of says it all doesn't it.....

    May 29, 2013 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  11. mediafail2012

    It's funny watching the liberal trolls trying to defend Holder and Obama. You run around calling people names and say that this is "made up" despite there being video evidence of his false testimony. I hope they finally make use of the law saying that you can't lie to Congress under oath especially since they have evidence that he not only signed off on calling James Rosen a co-conspirator but also had meetings about it while testifying he had never heard of such a thing and thought it was bad policy if he ever did.

    Oh and btw, reporting leaked information isn't illegal, leaking the information is.

    May 29, 2013 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  12. Solomon Walker

    It is shocking to hear the words out of Eric Holder's mouth during any testimony that he provides during questioning. A lingering issue is whether he should have remained in office subsequent to his testimony during the "Fast & Furious" hearings. This man acts as though he is absent or criminally negligent in his duty to the nation – holding out on information, inferring that he does not know anything about the duties directly associated or connected with the course of the day in his position. The speaking in circles, avoiding an answer is classic Holder rhetoric, but harmful to the nation. The American people know this man has full knowledge of the duties carried out each day for the office of United States attorney general. Not sure why Holder would believe that Americans are not intelligent enough to understand this.

    He should have been prosecuted and removed from office after it was shown by the senate, if nothing else – that Holder was criminally negligent of his duty in the "Fast & Furious" situation.

    He's making a hell of a lot of money that I'm paying into the system for taking no responsibility for his own actions under the American flag. That negligence is specious to other serious corrupt internal practices of the Obama administration. These are tough street guys sitting in these seats, not innocents.

    They know what they're doing insofar as denials are concerned, and raking in American tax dollars while they carry it out in our faces – and laugh about it during their private time.

    Don't put up with it, America. These men are making a mockery of you.

    May 29, 2013 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
  13. Tooth Fairy

    If this was a GOP administration or a GOP AG the left and the news agencies would be in an uproar. Remember that this administration is setting the bar for future administrations. Think about that for a second, put down the kool-aid and just think.....if possible. This is scarey stuff.

    May 29, 2013 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  14. Gabbo

    This crook Holder needs to be in jail with Bubba – that'll teach him. King Barry, too.

    May 29, 2013 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  15. LJ

    You know the old adage, "Where there's smoke, there's fire?" Seriously!

    May 29, 2013 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  16. Kevin B

    Lying to Congress now? This guy is just too arrogant, and he is killing the president's image. He must go.

    May 29, 2013 07:45 am at 7:45 am |


    May 29, 2013 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  18. jsmoulder

    He opened his mouth, and every time he does that no truths come out.

    May 29, 2013 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  19. Joey

    This article is late to the dance and spinning all over the dance floor!

    May 29, 2013 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  20. Steve

    Well they could bring a lie detector into the building, but it would probably explode somewhere just inside of the DC beltway, due to the overwhelming overload of lies.

    May 29, 2013 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  21. chill

    Leakers of classified information are traitors and deserve to be prosecuted. I don't have much sympathy for Rosen and other reporters who print this stuf knowing it is detrimental to the country and potentially fatal for our assets in the field. He wasn't prosecuted and should consider himself lucky. This whole AP "scandal" is nothing more than our DOJ people doing what they should be doing and not a scandal at all. Frankly it's hilarious watching the Republicans twist like pretzels with their sudden concern for the "lamestream" media.

    May 29, 2013 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  22. chachabrown

    All this administration does is lie, and the media helps to cover it up. Liberty and freedom is all but dead.

    May 29, 2013 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  23. The Other Bob

    Another desperate GOP witch hunt. I guess they can't see the difference between requesting warrant and filing charges. What a pitiful bunch. They need to stop wasting time and money, and start doing their real jobs.

    May 29, 2013 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  24. 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.

    May 29, 2013 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  25. Aaron

    For those that think this is a fabricated scandal, you are missing the point. The federal government's head of law enforcement lying under oath without consequence seriously undermines our criminal justice system. It clearly establishes law enforcement officers as above the law and sets a precedent that lying under oath is an acceptable behavior. This behavior must be investigated and prosecuted in order to protect the rule of law in this country.

    May 29, 2013 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
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