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. Brad

    Its all relative really, all politicians are Dirty, some it takes a lot longer to clean the dirt away, but this administrations transgressions do not require the type of industrial cleaning to clean the stink away as the last admin Bush.

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


    May 29, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  3. nuclear mike

    Yes...yes he did thw whole of the Executive Branch is now out-of-control with the President for their example.

    May 29, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  4. Darrell

    He should be fired, but he knows where the skeletons are so that ain't happening. Knowing of "potential" prosecution is not a hard nut to crack when in order to even get the subpoena (on the 3rd try) they had to say a crime is probable. He didn't say prosecution or current case, he said potential and know of, which were both a requirement for him to sign off and a judge to grant. He definitely deserves to be charged, whether he resigns or not. I felt the same way about Scooter, and laws mean something, or they should.

    May 29, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  5. Anonymous

    Ultimately it was a federal judge who had to sign off on the warrant for wire tapping. . . why is HIS or HER name absent from reports and analysis of this incident. . .the fact that a federal judge would abandon his gatekeeping powers over other branches bothers me far more than the fact that some agency head got over zealous. . .

    May 29, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  6. cm74130

    "Don't we deserve better than the answer, I don't know?" "I don't know" might be the correct and true answer for certain officials at certain times. Not everyone can know everything. What makes the probes look like witch hunts is that there is a lot of hunting and little to show for it. Also, the hunts seem focused on small things. It's just hard for me to see why Benghazi is such a big issue. It seems crazy to be asking a question like, "To find out why resources were denied months leading up to that terrorist attack." What do you want to do, second guess every decision the government has ever made? Oh, and BTW, the Republicans would seem to share some responsibility for resources being denied since they have blocked and obfuscated on budget matters for years. Spreading blame is an endless game if you play it beyond any reasonable limits.

    May 29, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  7. eric

    Holder didn't sign the warrant. . . a judge did. . . why is there no information on the JUDGE who dropped the ball by signing such an obviously overlybroad warrant. . . the break down in separation of powers is a far greater and more relevant story than the fact that an agency head got overzealous. . .

    May 29, 2013 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  8. Phrank

    I keep seeing the GOP being refered to as "haters" about "factual", on this subject.
    I have said it before and I'll say it again, anone who aligns themselves with a "party" is a wishy-washy person with no morals! You can't tell me that you argee with everything that your "party" pushes. Hence you comprimise what you believe in for the sake of the party.
    This shows how "party" members are more interseted in power than they are in donig their job correctly.

    May 29, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  9. Melvin Painter

    It has been clearly known that law enforcement officers will lie just as good as the criminals. For they are no better than the criminals. Give them a badge, give them a gun, and they think they can act like with legalized criminal activity authority.

    May 29, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  10. ron

    This is so much about nothing. Does anyone think it is important to maintain secrets, which exposed could result in compromising our national security or worst, result in deaths to some diplomats. Republicans have been trying to scandalize the Obama administration since Day 1. All these so called scandals lumped together amount to what? A rabid Republican Party that hates Obama, mistrusts the American people and favors the rich. Their only agenda is to elect right wing politicians to take the country back to when abortions were illegal, gays are closeted, women earn less than men and only minorities are told where they can live, work and play.

    May 29, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  11. scarf

    Any good lawyer will tell their clients about to testify, "Don't answer any questions you aren't asked." Holder may have signed a subpoena, but that is a far cry from anticipating prosecution of the target of the subpoena. I get subpoenaed routinely in my work, but it's always to obtain information about the activities of others for lawsuits against them. Holder didn't lie. He may not have been forthcoming, but that's what people with experience testifying do. Next time, the Republicans need to ask better questions.

    May 29, 2013 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  12. contraryjim

    Were his lips moving? If so the answer is YES

    May 29, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  13. jim

    Anything short of a confession for everything that ever happened, even under the Bush administration, and the Lindbergh kidnapping would be considered a lie by the GOP.

    May 29, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  14. JimmyNelson

    Holder didnt just lie to Congress, he lied to the American people.

    May 29, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  15. Tom1940

    If nothing else comes of this, at least these investigations will finally shatter the rose colored glasses, through which the Mainstream Media has been using to "see" the Obama Administration. Perhaps now there will be better, more thorough, fair and balanced reportage in the media, as the result.

    May 29, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  16. mitchgam

    If you actually read the words in the article about what Mr Holder was asked and his reply and what he is being accused of, you will note that they are two totally different things.

    He was asked about the press being potentially charged with obtaining leaked information.
    The charge against him is that he lied when he said he wasn't involved in the "potential prosecution of the press,"

    Signing off on a search warrant to look for information regarding a leak is different then charging or prosecuting anybody.

    It is his job to investigate any allegations, that is not the same as charging or prosecuting somebody. Charges happen only after evidence is found to substantiate the allegation being investigated.

    Isn't there any real work for our congress people to be doing, rather then keep playing these semantical partisan games?

    May 29, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  17. Karen Donahue

    Why this isn’t the headliner on the CNN landing page is directly indicative of how deeply imbedded CNN is with their messiah.

    May 29, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  18. Just Call Me Lucifer

    ...and the GOP witch hunts continue. Why spend any time doing what you were elected to office to do, when you can keep trying to undermine the current administration?

    May 29, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  19. Chris

    Did he lie? Did his lips move? Ok then, you've got your answer.

    May 29, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  20. dwm2112

    Of course he lied on this as he has many times in the past. He needs to be fired as this type of behavior from senior level administration officials is unacceptable and should not be tolerated.

    May 29, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  21. tv22

    Some of you don't get it – first of all, leaking is important, but it's important to find out who had access to information and then leaked it. The press should not be considered a co-conspirator for asking questions and trying to get info. If this were the case, Nixon would have finished his term and Woodward and Bernstein would have been in jail. Second, the AG is the chief law enforcement officer of the country. It has been shown that he signed off on this two years earlier. For him to lie to Congress is completely unacceptable. Ask John Mitchell, Nixon's AG.

    May 29, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  22. rod

    You so called "conservative" (a complete misrepresentation of us real conservatives and republicans) loons need to READ before you write or respond...CHARGES WERE NOT PRESSED AGAINST A JOURNALIST...records of communication were subpoenaed . Why isn't my party asking who the ACTUAL LEAK Holder is doing...? McCarthyism is alive and well in this party...sheesh!!!

    May 29, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  23. Green Dragon

    Congress would be the "expert" to find out if someone is lying.

    May 29, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |

    All depends how you define LIE.

    May 29, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  25. EDDIE

    The truth on Benghazi is out there and has been out there.You repubs just don't want to except it because it does'nt fit the "SCANDAL" your trying to create.Keep watching faux news.IRS "SCANDAL" what's the problem there? I want the IRS to look over every request for a political party affiliate that say's they are a "SOCIAL" party before they get tax exemption.That's the real problem here they should not qualify.And to top that the only one that was turned down was a democratic affiliaton group.Not a teabagging party which is clearly political thay could care less about anyone else.Faux new's Scandal I'd keep investigating anything that has to do with faux news.AP "SCANDAL" sounds like they are breaking the law here.Why aren't the repubs talking about jobs?

    May 29, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
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