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. Pat

    According to libs, they loathe Bush for lying to us, but yet its somehow OK for Obama and Holder to do it. Like settling a score or something. What fools...

    May 29, 2013 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  2. IvotedforObama

    Well at least his lies didnt result in the death of 4500 Americans, 100,000 Iraqis and 40,000 wounded Americans.

    May 29, 2013 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  3. Libertarian_First

    I am amazed the lengths some will go to protect a party member. He is dirty as the day is long. Why is that so hard to admit?

    May 29, 2013 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  4. allens

    why all of the sympathy for the justice department? holder approved the taps and should be fired for doing it. our rights are slowly being eroded and all the repubs can do is have political circuses instead of focusing on real issues. issa is a horrible man and why he keeps getting elected is beyond me. he has not done anything for the people since he has been in office.

    May 29, 2013 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  5. joe nardone

    How many times are we going to accept the answer, I don't know from this administration?

    Benghazi Scandal – I don't know.
    IRS Scandal – I don't know.
    AP Scandal – I don't know.
    IRS Scandal – I dont know.
    Fox News Rosman Scandal – I don't know.

    It's not just republicans asking questions. Plenty of dems in congress are mortified as well. Don't we deserve better than the answer, I don't know? Even if you as our president or attorney general really don't know, maybe the real answer is you are just incompetent.

    Doesn't it make a difference to find out the truth with Benghazi? To find out why resources were denied months leading up to that terrorist attack. To find out why after the attack started resources were denied? Don't the families of those who lost their lives deserve to know the truth? I would think to them it make's a pretty big difference.

    May 29, 2013 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  6. askdavey

    people are in nature good law abiding, just a hint for the kids we are taught to talk instead of fight, don:t say anything if you can:t say something nice, and its better to tell the truth,......with that said who in this great country would ever teach the teachings of the GOP to thier kids ? would you form thier brain to caarry on vendettas because they lost an election ? make up charges to carry on longer than need be ? do you tell your son to kick the other player after a sporting event while shaking thier hand ? GOP has taking out potusadm. and made mountains out of mole hills all while erning a pay check that they are not worthy of, the obamaa adm. has brought the country back from the bottom , with no help from the GOP.just throwing wrenches at them at every turn, wake up america......all the gop would have to do is put forth a JOBS BILL, OUR COUNTRY IS BACK WITH NO HELP FROM THE GOP., THEY LOVE AMERICA , BUT WHILE 20 MILLION PEOPLE WITH NO JOBS THEY WOULD RATHEER STICK IT TO THEM THAN HEL, vote dem. at the mid terms and vote dem at the 2016 election and lets put the gop back were they belong working for the people and not themselves.

    May 29, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  7. allens

    what are you all talking about re lying? no one ha lied or at least proven they lied. you are not interested in truth, only political stupidity. perfect voters

    May 29, 2013 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  8. Realityblowz

    Which lie are we talking about? Are we going to discuss the one where he was personally responsible for the death of officer Brian Terry and hundreds of Mexican citizens and children, during Fast and Furious? At what point does it take for even a Democrat to realize that this guy should be in jail. If you think otherwise, then you are truly lost in the chasm of single party politics.

    May 29, 2013 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  9. Siestasis

    Yes, lets have another investigation it will give the do nothing Congress another excuse to try and hold up the economic recovery while they look to 2016.

    May 29, 2013 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  10. askdavey

    remember the worst leaks would be an adm. leaking cia personel info while undercover, but that was ok for w. he should have been imprisoned as a tratior, but no gop hearings on that ,

    May 29, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  11. Taroya

    Let's see.... wasn't it 2010 when we discovered that Fox had tapped the phone of various politicians and media figures in the UK?

    Why, yes, it was!

    That was an abuse of privilege for certain, and they are crying now?

    Too bad.

    May 29, 2013 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  12. Ancient Texan

    Holder lies about every thing he is asked about; "Fast and Furious", NBP voter intimidation, AP wiretaps, Rosen/reporter/Freedom of Press scandal. If he's breathing, he's lying.

    May 29, 2013 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  13. dennis

    Just like he didn't lie about his fast and furious debacle....another left wing hypocrite

    May 29, 2013 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  14. TooMuchCoffee

    I don't see how potentially prosecuting a member of the press and searching the e-mail of a member of the press for information relating to the prosecution of one of their sources is the same thing.

    May 29, 2013 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  15. Johnny Rouse

    Holder was answering about the AP leak not the Fox situation. This will not stick. Try again.

    May 29, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  16. Ricky Vee

    Of course Holder lied, of course Obama is lying. They both new about the IRS, SP and are working hard to cover up Benghazi. The problem is guys like Issa will not stop until we know the truth and no matter how much the truth scares liberals, its going to come out. One way or the other. So much for the " transformative " and " transparent " president.

    May 29, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  17. Mark

    Other party did the deed = horrible scandal. Your party did the deed = political witch hunt.

    May 29, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  18. John Stockton

    Yawn... ya'll misguided tea-o-cons eveer heeard the story about the little boy who cried wolf? Good luck in the next election cycle!

    May 29, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  19. flatpicker

    Obamanoids....... It's like you all are in a trance. LIke sheep being led to the slaughter. Unfortunately there are more sheep than people that can actually think for themselves. Unfortunately there are more sheep than people who are hell bent on one party no matter what the party does.

    May 29, 2013 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  20. derek wszelaki

    What kind of amnesia comes with the name republican? Nobody remembers lying Bush, his wonder boy Alberto Gonzales, Rumsfeld and the rest of those morons?

    May 29, 2013 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  21. lionhart

    There's no where in the article that says Holder lied. There's no proof that he lied. This is yet another fishing expedition/witch hunt that will go nowhere like Fast and furious. what a waste of taxpayer money!!!!!

    May 29, 2013 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  22. mkuske

    He either lied to Congress or he lied to the judge in seeking his search warrant. Even if his subordinate was the official signatory of the warrant, we know Holder held discussions regarding the warrant meaning he suborned or conspired to suborn perjury. He's necessarily guilty of at least one of the above...felony, felony, felony, felony.

    May 29, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  23. mkuske

    He either lied to Congress or he lied to the judge in seeking his search warrant. Even if his subordinate was the official signatory of the warrant, we know Holder held discussions regarding the warrant meaning he suborned or conspired to suborn perjury. He's necessarily guilty of at least one of the above. Any way you look at it, that's felony, felony, felony, felony.

    May 29, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  24. lionhart

    There were people saying Holder should have resign over fast and furious then it turned out he did nothing wrong. All I see are accusations from Republicans and nothing else. There is no proof of wrong doing. Republicans should stop searching for scandals that don't exist and do their jobs!!!!

    May 29, 2013 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  25. James PDX

    If we have a person leaking government secrets, we should absolutely bo doing everything we can to stop the leak and bring them to justice. The press may be free to print what they like, but that doesn't exempt them from investigations into leaks of confidenttial information.

    May 29, 2013 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
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