Holder runs into roadblocks on off-the-record meetings on leaks
May 29th, 2013
11:20 PM ET
10 years ago

Holder runs into roadblocks on off-the-record meetings on leaks

Updated at 12:38 p.m. ET on Thursday 5/30

Washington (CNN) - Attorney General Eric Holder's plans to sit down with media representatives to discuss guidelines for handling investigations into leaks to the news media have run into trouble.

The Associated Press issued a statement Wednesday objecting to plans for the meetings to be off the record. "If it is not on the record, AP will not attend and instead will offer our views on how the regulations should be updated in an open letter," said Erin Madigan White, the AP's media relations manager.

The New York Times is taking the same position. "It isn't appropriate for us to attend an off-the-record meeting with the attorney general," executive editor Jill Abramson said in a statement.

Like the New York Times and the Associated Press, CNN will decline the invitation for an off-the-record meeting. A CNN spokesperson says if the meeting with the attorney general is on the record, CNN would plan to participate.

The Huffington Post's Washington bureau chief, Ryan Grim, also said he will not attend unless the meeting is on the record. "A conversation specifically about the freedom of the press should be an open one. We have a responsibility not to betray that," Grim told CNN.

But Politico posted an item on its website saying editor-in-chief John Harris plans to attend one of the meetings with Holder.

"As editor-in-chief, I routinely have off-the-record conversations with people who have questions or grievances about our coverage or our newsgathering practices," Harris said in the Politico item. "I feel anyone - whether an official or ordinary reader - should be able to have an unguarded conversation with someone in a position of accountability for a news organization when there is good reason."

Representatives for the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post will both attend the meeting.

“I prefer that any meeting be on the record," said Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron. "That said, journalists routinely participate in off-the-record sessions, whether they prefer those conditions or not, and then continue to report on events. I am going to this meeting in order to represent our interests as journalists and to raise our concerns. I'll also listen to what the Attorney General has to say. I trust that our journalists will report on this as vigorously as they would any other subject.”

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A Justice Department official said Wednesday the sessions would be off the record to encourage a full exchange of ideas.

President Barack Obama directed the attorney general to review guidelines for investigations involving leaks to the media and said Holder would be meeting with journalists to get their views.

This comes in the wake of disclosures that the government obtained AP phone records after the news organization reported classified details of a thwarted 2012 plot in Yemen to try to blow up a plane with a bomb. The government also obtained e-mails and phone records for a Fox journalist who allegedly received a classified report on North Korea from a former State Department contractor.

A Justice Department official said Holder would hold his first meetings with the media on Thursday and Friday.

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The official said the attorney general has a "longstanding belief that protecting and defending the First Amendment is essential to our democracy."

The official said the sessions would include print, television, radio, wire services and online media.

–Jesse Solomon, Jim Acosta and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.

MORE: 5 things about the controversy surrounding AG Eric Holder

Filed under: Eric Holder • Justice Department
soundoff (684 Responses)
  1. TooScruffy

    Off the record? So he can deny it later? Good for the news organizations for rejecting his proposal. Shame on those who cater to this dishonest person.

    May 30, 2013 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  2. Paul

    Holder doesn't want everyone to know what he is up to so he wants this off the record. What a surprise.

    May 30, 2013 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  3. Marie MD

    At least Holder is getting some TV face time considering less than 40% of Americans know or knew who he is.
    As we know, a lot of those pesky people (fgaux news, limberger, beck) who call themselves journalists/entertainers (including the SMS) are above the law. NOT!

    May 30, 2013 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  4. ★FALCON★

    It's about time they hold this lying tyrannical Administration accountable.

    May 30, 2013 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  5. greggebhardt


    May 30, 2013 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  6. J Hunt

    Fox should send James Rosen.

    May 30, 2013 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  7. Vote Lous

    "But Politico posted an item on its website saying editor-in-chief John Harris plans to attend one of the meetings with Holder."

    No surprise there... Politico is in the tank and corrupt tp the core!

    May 30, 2013 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  8. Tin Can Sailor

    'Off the record' basically means, "Come get your marching orders".

    May 30, 2013 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  9. Jerell Strawn

    I am at a loss as to exactly what about the 1st Amendment has to be updated.

    May 30, 2013 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  10. Uncle Sam

    Funny how after 9/11, when Bush and Cheney said that an investigation was not needed into why it happened, they eventually were able to testify, off the record, not under oath, behind closed doors, together...and their were no "roadblocks" from the press. .

    May 30, 2013 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  11. jnobfan

    Pack it up Eric
    You have finally shamed the press into doing their jobs which if you didn't go to Law School that day is to inform the public about the governments activities.

    May 30, 2013 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  12. Rachel

    Will CNN attend?

    May 30, 2013 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  13. Chuck

    Well how dare the AP not allow the Government to tell them what and how to report the news. I'm glad they act as if they care anyway. I wonder how long this pretend front is going to last as everyone knows the press is in the tank for dear Leader.

    May 30, 2013 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  14. Teaparty_man

    And why wouldn't Politico attend. After all, like CNN, they're the administration's water boys.

    May 30, 2013 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  15. NClaw441

    I am amazed that there have been no responses to this story. Are responses being muzzled?

    May 30, 2013 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  16. Maxwell

    Any News organization that would agree to "off the record" discussions with a Government Official is not to be trusted, if that Offical does not want to be held to his word, that discussion has no merit and offers them an option to deny facts.

    This is the same "off the record" behavior Obama's cabinet had with him about Bengahzi, Fast and Furious, IRS, AP and FOX. They want to have the ability to deny involvement by not recording or releasing comunications between them.

    May 30, 2013 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  17. nnnnnnn

    We're a constitutional republic

    May 30, 2013 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  18. John Moynihan

    Why would the media allow a public official to declare that something they say is off the record? Why not just report on any reportable thing he says?

    May 30, 2013 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  19. dnhook

    This is how a Gestapo operates. OTR press conferences are an oxymoron. The most transparent administration in history has become the Fourth Reich.

    May 30, 2013 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  20. michael eldridge

    Every one needs to talk when differences arise on or off record

    May 30, 2013 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  21. eric in NJ

    This faux indignation from the media is laughable- for 5+ years they unquestioningly covered any and all proclamations made by this regime and only after they are directly impacted by wrong doing are they finally woken from their passive state. No worries, they WANT to be cheerleaders for Obama et als. and soon enough they will get back into line and we will see the same old stories about Obama shooting hoops, Michelle telling us how fat we are (always ironic), or hit pieces on W.

    May 30, 2013 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  22. Rick McDaniel

    Holder is running the DOJ like a political tool, not a justice department.

    May 30, 2013 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  23. alison

    No mention on if CNN will be attending the OTR meeting with Holder?

    May 30, 2013 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  24. Steve

    Off the record is how Hitler did it.

    May 30, 2013 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  25. dialogos68

    This administration rule like Nazis!

    May 30, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
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