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. Larry Trickel

    So the Attorney General misrepresents his testimony again to Congress and the majority posting here think there is nothing wrong with it. In the next couple weeks, AG Holder will resign. My only hope is that they first find out how many more people this Administration has targeted for Government retailitation. Over 1,100 law suits alread filed. Wait until the depositions of FBI agents, IRS agents start taking place. Then maybe you will see how harmful this is to our democracy.....regardless of party everyone should be outraged.

    May 29, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  2. NYVeteran

    Once again instead of governing, we look at hurting the opposition. It wont stop until we stop electing the fools!

    May 29, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  3. culture debunk

    I I saw a comment that I found interesting.

    "Why are the repubs not talking about jobs?"

    Seriously? I want to know why Obama is not talking about jobs. He ran his entire re-election campaign on how he was going to improve the economy.
    Since he has been re-elected, he has not stopped assaulting our constitutional freedoms with little to no mention of jobs or the economy.
    Can we change the script on the teleprompter sometime soon?

    May 29, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  4. smartaz

    It is a serous charge when you lie to liars.

    May 29, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  5. Loathstheright

    As everyone can see by the conservatives posting on this threat, just what they have turned into, and it is not American and it is not pretty. Hopefully, real Americans will stand up to these regressive low lifes and vote out Republicans in droves in the next election.

    May 29, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  6. thefoolserrand

    Blah Blah Blah stated:

    " 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."

    When will everybody wake up and smell the stench? Sycophants never add anything intelligent to the debate as they are martyrs that will go down with the ship right or wrong. You actually do not notice the crap in your own diaper until it is running down your leg? Don't be a pawn!

    I was wondering when the first Hitler reference would appear. Wake up people and do not let either side think for you! Learn to think damn it!

    May 29, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  7. Homer

    "Did Holder Lie to Congress"?

    Were his lips moving?

    May 29, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  8. Robb

    NYVETERAN: What an idiotic statement! If there has been a law broken it needs to be investigated and those involved brought to justice. What good is governing when their are those who govern for themselves because they believe they are above the LAW?

    May 29, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  9. Hmm

    They all lie. Especially Congress. So keep your high hat off my table.

    Bunch of smokescreen scoundrels.

    May 29, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  10. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Teapublicans and their base: do as I say, don't do as I do. Two journalists were subpoenaed under the current Justice Dept because of classified information being leaked, but during Bush's warrantless NSA surveillance program, phone records, conversations, emails, text messaging, web browsing and bank transactions of millions of Americans not linked to any form of terrorism were monitored and even stored in a government data base system. But Bush claimed that the surveillance was for national security purposes. Well, lets have Jim Crow here in the 21st century all over again. Seperate and unequal or for whites only rules and for blacks only rules. let's face it, this racist bigoted society doesn't surprise me anymore.

    May 29, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  11. Elmore

    The GOP desperately needs scandals. Overall, things in the U.S. of A. are improving, and by golly the American people just might elect more dang demo-crats if they don't get a good scandal soon.

    May 29, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  12. Howard

    A search warrant is not a prosecution, nor does it lead to a prosecution. This particular investigation is just a different bunch of republican congress persons trying to horn in on the media attention.


    May 29, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  13. Fair is Fair

    "Well, lets have Jim Crow here in the 21st century all over again. Seperate and unequal or for whites only rules and for blacks only rules. let's face it, this racist bigoted society doesn't surprise me anymore."
    Is there anything the Obama administration should not be allowed to do without accusations of racism and bigotry? If you think anyone's civil rights are being violated, bring it to the ACLU. They'll just laugh at you.

    May 29, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  14. simplyput

    The *creeping sense of personal remorse* that Holder mentioned is shared by alot of us who voted this ticket into power.

    May 29, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  15. wow man

    Hey CNN this was last weeks news. Your bias on protecting Obama is shameful. Please report current political news. Your losing credibility faster than you can get recover it. And please no spin be objective and report on the facts please. Simply fox news became number one by doing this and you should do the same.

    May 29, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  16. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    culture debunk wrote:

    I want to know why Obama is not talking about jobs. He ran his re-election campaign on how he was going to improve the economy. Since he has been re-elected he has not stopped assaulting our constitutional freedoms.

    Well, perhaps you should go back to the President's first State of the Union in which he spoke about improving the recovery, strenghtening our infrastructure, putting more Americans back to work and creating a 21st American economy built to last. Let's face it, as President and leader of the free world, the President has a lot on his plate. It would be nice if for a change, teapublicans would stop their obvious and shameless race bashing of the President and every black person in his administration and show what they can do for their country, outside of trying to bring back Jim Crow.

    Secondly, I don't know what you mean by assaulting constututional rights but I believe if you google Bush's warrantless NSA surveillance program from 2002 to 2007, you'd discover what assault on our constitution really is. Perhaps you should find out why Bush lied about bogus WMDs and dragged us into a deadly and costly war and got away with it. That is assaulting our freedoms. You shoud read up on the Libby scandal or the Bush White House email scandal in violation of the 1978 Presidential Records Act and the 1939 Hatch Act. You should google Wikipedia and read how the Bush White House destroyed over 5 million emails to cover their treason and atrocities. You should read up on predatory lenders' Partner in Crime and how GWB passed legislation overriding consumer protection laws and allowing Wall Street banks to exploit consumers and make lucrative profits on their backs without federral regulating, resulting the the housing crisis and the collapse of our economy. Finally, the 2012 voter suppression campaign by teapublicans is a violation of the constitution.

    May 29, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  17. Ryan

    Amazing that this is on the back pages of the left-leaning always.

    Seriously! You guys really need to be putting this on the front page. It's just another media coverup of the failures going on in this administration that the President has lost all control over.

    May 29, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  18. HarvTy

    Very telling that a story regarding the Attorney General's misleading, if not outright dishonest, testimony under oath is not a lead story. Anyone who gets the bulk of their news from this source are being brainwashed and mislead.

    May 29, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  19. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer


    Most members of the tea party are white supremacists who abandoned their confederate flags. Now they're wrapping themselves in the American flags and calling themselves Patriots. I believe Patriots fought to preserve our democracy, not to undermine it and seceed or to maintain slavery. And the other half of the republican party are like slave masters wishing that our black President would do their chores. No, we are beyond that. That is why we won the darn election.

    May 29, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  20. DoNotWorry

    This ain't nothing, folks. The worst thing Holder and Obama have done is perpetuate Bush and his AG's policy of Deferred Prosecution Agreements, which gives corporate executives a get out of jail free card for all illegal behavior. These DPAs have unleashed a wave of corporate crime in this country that makes the Mafia look innocent in retrospect. U.S. corporate executives are now the biggest criminals this planet has ever seen.

    May 29, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  21. sly

    Holder is a true Patriot – investigating Republican leaks of national security secrets involving terrorist attacks againest Americans.

    I am 100% behind President Obama's War on Terrorism – because He has kept us safe from all major terrorist attacks for the past 8 years.

    Go Holder! Get the bad guys, and certainly don't answer to the Republican Party of 18% – they are documented losers!

    May 29, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  22. ratherbboating

    Funny how everybody is bashing the Republicans and not talking about Holder and what he has done. CNN didn't bother to tell the whole story about this and his judge shopping because not one but two judges refused to go along with Holder. CNN is just as guilty as Holder on lying and keeping the truth from you.

    May 29, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  23. mikemc58

    Holder needs to be forced to tell all he knows then throw his butt in jail

    May 29, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  24. Name



    We need to get rid of Holder , Obama and Hillary
    We need to get rid of bigoted, ill-informed, xenophobic, fearful, conspiracy-based, anti-American neocons.

    YOU are the only anti-American buddy, even many Dems are calling for Holder's resignation!!! WAKE UP and stop the blind following partisan crap!!! Obama has divided this country beyond belief, as someone said earlier on this blog, Obama had potential to be a great leader, too bad he is blowing it because of his partisan ways and inexperience!!!!

    May 29, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  25. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    It's OK if it's against anyone other than democrats because there is two different set of laws for people in this country right libs?


    May 29, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
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