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. yalibi

    I love CNN's title ... GOP probe ... CNN, if you were to take your news gathering business seriously, you'd find out that plenty of Democrats are questioning whether Holder lied under oath! Stop this partisan news service and try to provide readers with an objective view, for Pete's sake!

    May 29, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  2. regularguy22

    Holder is carrying around too much baggage and he is losing the public's confidence. Time for him to go.

    May 29, 2013 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  3. See Ya Eric

    Why does this story reference the "Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee"? How about just the "House Judiciary Committee" CNN? What a crock to open your story and see you following the Obama marching order of blaming the Republicans. Nothing about this is partisan....The US Attorney General went after a reporter using trumped up charges and a friendly judge for a subpoena – then lied straight faced to Congress when asked about it. Clearly a misuse of the power of his office and clearly worth Judiciary Committee review.... This crook Holder has got to go.

    May 29, 2013 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  4. Jim in PA

    Ahhhh... now the GOP is finally executing the play we all expected. The whole point of ANY hearing by the GOP isn't to get answers. It's to try and get someone to lie under oath and use that to take them down. If Holder fell for that old chestnut then he is an absolute half-wit. That woman from the IRS who took the Fifth had the right idea.

    May 29, 2013 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  5. Patrick

    He is under investigation by a committee controlled by one of the most polarizing group of congresspeople elected since the Civil War. They are "Looking into" it, nowhere does it say that he has been proven to have lied, so ffs just stfu and wait until all the facts are in. We've already seen how these elected officials are quite willing to change emails to suit their agenda.

    May 29, 2013 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  6. Patrick

    e is under investigation by a committee controlled by one of the most polarizing group of congresspeople elected since the Civil War. They are "Looking into" it, nowhere does it say that he has been proven to have lied, so can we just wait until all the facts are in. We've already seen how these elected officials are quite willing to change emails to suit their agenda.

    May 29, 2013 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  7. Steve

    He who can't legislate must investigate.

    May 29, 2013 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  8. Pete in Guilford

    What about flat-out lying to the American people? Shouldn't that be a crime? Oooooh, you can't lie to Congress (which I don't think Holder did), but it's just fine for the GOP to lie to the people they're supposed to be representing. Hypocrites.

    George Mason University's Center for Media and Public Affairs, conducted a study and looked at 100 claims, 46 made by Democrats and 54 by Republicans.

    Republicans' claims are far more likely than Democrats' to be rated false by the fact-checking site PolitiFact, according to a study released Tuesday.

    Since January, PolitiFact has rated 52 percent of Republicans' statements as mostly or entirely false, compared to just 24 percent of Democrats' statements, the study found. In the first three weeks of May, amid controversies over the attacks in Benghazi, Libya and investigations at the Internal Revenue Service and the Department Of Justice, 60 percent of Republicans' statements were rated as false, compared to 29 percent of those made by Democrats.

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

    The affidavit described Rosen as potentially being an "aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator" to the crime of disclosing government secrets, but Holder said he wasn't involved in the "potential prosecution of the press," Holder should be disbarred, removed from office and prosecuted for perjury.

    May 29, 2013 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  10. Republicans rule Obama

    Now we find out Holder went to 3 different judges before he got the warrant approved. This man needs to be arrested. Another crooked member of the Obama Adminstration. Maybe thats the way they do politics in Chicago but not here in Washington. The Obama adminstration is nothing more then a criminal enterprise.

    May 29, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  11. a disgrace

    holder is going to sit in jail until he give up the disgrace obama to take his place!

    May 29, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  12. kylefromohio

    I'm reading in this blog that people want justice and are mad about our rights being taken away; Then join the real fight for your rights and help ban the Patriot Act, the real threat to our rights!!!, Or do you just want to be politically and pick side, Dem or Rep over the side of all the people of our great country?

    May 29, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  13. kylefromohio

    Tooth Fairy

    If this was a GOP administration or a GOP AG the left and the news agencies would be in an uproar.

    Well and this is not an uproar from the right! which shows the politically side of the whole thing. When will we as American Demand the Patriot Act be repeal, and Demand the American Job Act be brought to the House floor, real and important things that will benefit and protect the American people!

    May 29, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  14. David

    Everyone lies to congress and congress lies to everyone. They act like it has never happened before.....

    May 29, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  15. Mak

    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.
    -------------------------------------------------

    You are mistaken on several points. First of all it is arrogant to assume that, whether centrist, ,left, or right, that people do not want to know the truth and want the law to apply. As it currently stands, I do *not* know whether these are scandals. I've seen fragments, accusations, and a lot of murky insinuations. For example, I do not doubt that the IRS was wrongly discriminating against right wing groups – the policy should obviously be applied to both – but I have yet to see the "smoking gun" even remotely pointing at the WH. IF such evidence were to come forward, I would certainly want that to come out. BUT I am not na├»ve – I know full well the GOP would love nothing more than to tear into the WH too...in other words I would no more trust Issa than I would Holder.

    May 29, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  16. They call me joe.....

    Here we go again..... Another Republican wasting our tax money and time over nothing. Get a life for crying out loud.

    May 29, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  17. Ed

    When you elect a President from Chicago who appoints his Chicago friends to run his administration – you get a Chicago Administration in the White house running the nation. They attack their enemies via the IRS, FBI and any abuse of power they can come up with and they all claim they know nothing about it. They will use an means legal and illegal to forward their agenda, but claim they know nothing about it. It is just Chicago politics as usual for them with the added benefit of the mainstream media looking the other way becuase they support the agenda. Just like the good old days in Chicago.

    May 29, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  18. Scott

    Hmmm, couldn't find a Republican to quote? Pretty sad CNN can't even make an effort to present both sides. Interesting that CNN delivers such lopsided news that amounts to nothing more than a defense of this administration. Is that what all you boomer reporters learned in the 60s?

    May 29, 2013 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  19. liberal disease

    He and Barry have been lying since 2008, "we are going to be the most transparent gov in history of the USA"
    what a crock!

    May 29, 2013 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  20. Padraig

    That is funny, heck yes he has lied through his teeth the whole time. Waiting for the presidential pardon now.

    May 29, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  21. Peach

    Bye Bye Eric.......another horrible choice by this administration. That's all we heard during the Bush administration -Cheney & Bush lies.......but I guess its okey for Obama, Clinton, Holder, Sibelius, Napeletano, etc. etc. to lie. Can you say "Hypocrisy".

    May 29, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  22. Robb

    An interesting article out there about how dumb the American voter is. It focused on how caught up the country was with President Obama being black (stupid), his religion (stupid), his position on guns (stupid), and so on! What the country failed to acknowledge (100% true) was the amount of Chicago corrupt politics he was going to bring to Washington D.C.! This article is 3-4 years old and is coming true before our very eyes. The 3 things the country was focused on, as mentioned, do nott mean squat because he cant do a thing to the 2nd Amendment w/o violating it or having a convention with enough votes to repeal/limit it, his race is nonsense (if you can lead you can lead simple as that), and his religion, that is also protected in the Bill of Rights so that is a moot point.

    May 29, 2013 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  23. jgrueger

    What will this administration do next? Our rights are being taken away from us.

    May 29, 2013 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  24. dee

    This fabricated scandal is just that. Reading is simple, then comprehend, and come to a conclusion. CO-Conspirator is not the target or potiential target for prosecution. He signed the affidavit for the inquiry to see if a crime was committed, and no not being wise policy was also correct. I now see why Liberal people ignore substantive issues because of made up charges like this.

    May 29, 2013 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  25. Mark

    The right wing wacko witch hunt continues driven by Fixed News and fueled by sour grapes! We know right wing, you don't like the African-American president and you don't want Hillary to win in 2016, which she will. No one is paying attention to you but fellow right wing wacko bubble occupiers.

    May 29, 2013 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
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