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. The REAL Truth...

    @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.
    Ah, the Fox-talk is strong with this one.. Not partisan?? Where have you been for the last 5 yrs. The Obstructionist Party isn't looking for the truth. They got that last Nov with a resounding rejection of their ideals and methods. No, they are looking for anything with which to smear the POTUS. If the current crop of loser manufactured so-called scandals is the best they can come up with.. Hilary should be a shoo-in for 2016.

    There's nothing illegal (based on available data) that occurred here and both Holder and the DOJ did things by the book. The ongoing witch hunt by the Obstructionist Party is out to get anyone in the Administration that they can. You really need to try a little harder. Most intelligent people fully understand the nature of these cases and realize that there's still 48% of the population gullible enough to buy what the Obstructionist Party is selling.

    May 29, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  2. bill davis

    THe GOP is going to blaow a gasket. They've been after Holder and Obama since January 20th 2009. They know Holder has the guts to prosecute Bush and Cheney....

    May 29, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  3. Anne-Florida

    You can tell by the posts here that Republicans can think of nothing other than playing the gotcha game instead of really working on problems in this country. Always remember what comes around goes around. Personnally, I cannot wait until the 2014 elections to get some of these Republicans out of office. And we will!!!

    May 29, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  4. Dave

    Real GOP probe: can we dig up any dirt at all, even something we could make LOOK like a scandal? If not we can just lie about it.

    May 29, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  5. dave richman

    @mitchgam The warrant CHARGED Rosen in order to get a judge to sign it. Not even a good try mitch.

    May 29, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  6. Mark in San Diego

    Isn't this the second time Holder has lied to congress, or at least been caught in a bold face lie?

    May 29, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  7. LiberaLIowan

    We've got them this time! Another scandal!!! BENGHAZI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

    May 29, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  8. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    The GOPT would twist the facts to compensate for their own shortcomings and failures and they'd go to any level to deny that the Bush administration was the most corrupt and unthetical in U.S. history. CNN deleted my previous comment again but any one can go to Wikipedia abd google the scandals and corruption of the Bush administration that should have landed him and his administration in state prison:

    -Bush Warrantless Surveillance program
    -Bush White House Email scandal in violation of the 1978 Presidential Records Act and the 1939 Hatch Act
    -The Libby case and Bush's Clemency
    -The 2007 dismissal of 8 U.S. Attorneys
    -The 5 million emails destroyed between 2002 and 2007
    -Predatory lenders conspiracy that resulted in the housing crisis and economic collapse
    -the illegitimate invasion of Iraq

    And that just the beginning of the treason and atrocities of the Bush administration

    May 29, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  9. ncjayhawk

    mitchgam, your commentary conflicted itself. Holder said he said he wasn't involved in the "potential prosecution of the press." You missed the key word here – potential. By signing off on the Justice Department's decision to seek a search warrant, he knew of the "potential" of the findings. In order to request a warrant, you must show just cause for the action. The justification was media involvement in the leaks and the fact the affidavit described Rosen as potentially being an "aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator" could lead to potential prosecution. Signing off on an affidavit that states the media is potentially a co-conspirator by default means there is potential prosecution.

    May 29, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  10. 1dee05

    Geez, when are the Republicans going to work on the business of the people? They are trying so hard to find something to cause the President, and the country, to fail or look bad that they forget why they are in Washington. Instead of working for progress and improving their own image so they can win in future elections they continue to be a scary negative lot. I was pleased to hear McCain stopped complaining for a moment and went to Syria to hopefully help decide how to best approach that situation. Republicans don't have to agree on everything with this administration but it is so fanatical that even if one of their ideas is taken forward they turn against it. They are like a bunch of chickens digging in the dirt looking for worms!

    May 29, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  11. Jim

    Shame the democratic controlled Senate does not have an interest in this matter.

    May 29, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  12. dd

    The Ineptocracy and Corruption of the Obama Administration continues to be revealed. We finally have the State Run News Media reporting the crimes of Obama and his henchman. The Obama Media was losing readers/viewers Fast and Furious because they failed to report the news or the TRUTH! Obama's mistake might have been attacking the AP! Those peanut heads were not worth the attack by the DOJ! They have always lied for Obama. It looks like Obama is about to go down hard! The GOP must keep adding to the scandal list so that the comedians turn Obama into Satan on the late night shows.

    May 29, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  13. Holder lied

    Seems he is having trouble keeping his lies and those of his boss straight these days.

    May 29, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  14. sly

    Now the Republicans are trying to blame the AG for trying to fight terrorism?

    Republicans in the press were leaking national security secrets.

    As always, this is just another huge waste of Taxpayer Dollars while our bridges are collapsing.

    The Party of 18% is a complete joke these days.

    May 29, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  15. Anonymous

    Big deal. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld lied to Congress

    May 29, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  16. Thaddeus Kozubal

    How would Congress know a lie if they heard one? Why, just ask John Boehner to open his mouth. The truth comes with the most cash.

    May 29, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  17. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Bush Gate:

    -In 2006 GWB blocked a Justice Department investigation into his administration warrantless surveillance program in which the phone records, emails, web browsing, text messaging and bank transactions of millions of ordinary Americans not linked to any form of terrorism were monitored and even stored in a government data base system.

    -In 2004 the Bush administration issued an injunction blocking the New York Times from publishing an article about the NSA surveillance program close to the 2004 presidential election. The administration attempted to block publication again in 2005.

    -During the Libby Federal trial in which the covert identity of CIA agent was leaked shortly after her husband and Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson had written an article contesting GWB's claims that Iraq possessed WMDs, the Bush White House destroyed all emails exchanged between the White House and Libby.

    -During the 2007 investigation into the dismissal of 8 U.S. Attorneys, it was discovered that the Bush administration used private non-governmental email servers belonging to the RNC, to avoid keeping record of communication. Again, from 2002 to 2007, over 5 million emails were lost or deleted.

    May 29, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  18. Loathstheright

    Republicans will stoop to any low to harm anybody in Obama's administration. They of course could not take the time to actually investigate the treason that Bush, Cheney and crew did, republicans love their criminals.

    May 29, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  19. Tooth fairy

    Of course he did. However, this is the new accepted norm. The Dems even defend it. They boke their moral compass years ago. Anthony Weiner is their new poster boy. The Obama administration has re-set the bar to an all-time low. Learn to live with it because it will get even worse.

    May 29, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  20. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Bush, Cheyney, Rumsfeld all lied to congress, the UN, the world community, NATO and the American people. GWB reminds me of Adolph Hitler. During Hitlers brutal and oppressive reign, the world turned a blind eye because when you're white, it seem you're always right. That is until his aggression get to the point where western civilization was almost extinct. Every stept President Obama takes to try to move this country forward and reverse the mess Bush and his accomplices caused this country is met with scrutiny, condemnation, divisiveness and roadblocks. Its no surprise they lost the general election and as long as the right keep course with their divisiveness they'd all be voted out of office eventually.

    May 29, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  21. wolfpackbob

    Did Eric Holder lie? Not really because it depends on what your definition of "is" is. It also depends whether the major media networks will actually do their job and cover the story for Americans. Evidently in America now, you can lie and get away with it as long as the media chooses to look the other way. And the sad part is that even if the media covers an unfavorable story for the administration, half of America does not care about Washington DC unless it affects their government entitlements.

    May 29, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  22. alon

    This bunch of renegades we have in the corrupt Obama administration trample the Constitution and the law. They truely think that are above the law. They are arrogant and self centered.

    They need to be held accountable on many many fronts.

    May 29, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  23. Herbert

    I think Bush lied to congress so therefore it is OK for every other President to do it.

    May 29, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  24. bobo

    Holder lied and misused his power.... Period!

    May 29, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  25. Lizzie

    Nothing will happen, the press will cover. Late night talk shows will be told to find something on the GOP, stop making jokes about the WH and this administration, or they will lose their tax credits, those who watch will be only to happy not to think for themselves and follow the donkeys right into oblivion, and when they finally realize the errors of their way it will be to late.

    May 29, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
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