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.”

MORE: DOJ says e-mails, letter prove it notified Fox of subpoenas

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.

Kerry must answer Benghazi questions, House GOP says

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. Workhard03

    What a mess!!

    May 30, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  2. valwayne

    Can you imagine? Holder wants to hold meetings with the Obama Poodle Press about the terrible abuse that he's been engaged in, but he want's it off the record? What kind of person do we have running our Justice Dept? Its bizarre. Obama's Poodle Press has driven the contempt they are getting from Obama and Holder by never trying to hold him accountable, but to ask them for a meeting like this and tell them they can't tell the American people what he says? Obama and Holder are both corrupt and arrogant beyond belief.

    May 30, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  3. Bob

    If these news organizations are that concerned about things should be open and transparent, maybe they should commit to stop citing anonymous sources in their stories and start identifying their sources, as their commitment to openness and transparency.

    May 30, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  4. Randy T

    Off the record, from the most transparent administration in history. Thats perfect.

    May 30, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  5. Dwayne Keith

    Attending and then treating it as on the record anyway ould be appropriate with regard to this AG and this administration.

    May 30, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  6. quid est veritas

    why choose the word "roadblocks", which insinuates that the press are somehow unfairly obstructing holder? wouldn't it be more appropriate to say that holder is erecting roadblocks to an open dialogue with the press by demanding closed-door meetings?

    May 30, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  7. Malory Archer

    If you aren't doing anything wrong why the need to have an off the record meeting witht he press? For once the majority of the press is doing the right thing.


    I have exactly the same question for the car thief who INSISTS Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen only testify about Benghazi behind closed doors. For some reason your ilk has no problem at all with that.

    May 30, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  8. and2therepublic

    Attorney General John Mitchell lied to Congress and went to federal prison for it. AG Holder lied to Congress. What's good for a lying Republican AG, is good for a lying Democrat AG.

    May 30, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  9. Bill Beers

    This reporter neglected to include the snooping on CBS reporters and CNN reporters and NY Times reporters

    May 30, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  10. chicodon

    Not to worry. Politico will leak whatever they are asked to leak. The articles will be posted 20 minutes after the meeting ends.

    May 30, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  11. Randers

    t least Politico understands the importance and constructiveness of first hearing someone out and allowing to be heard in full authenticity before media sensationalism re-assumes it's front center position. (IE: see article above)

    Is this not what the whole issue between our national security and freedom of the media is all about? Is this not what has deemed the DOJ and the media to come toghether for discussion?

    The right to freedom of the media vs. the abuse thereof in regard to matters of national security are to be the main topic of this coming together. The media's issue at hand is their un-infringed right to communications with anonymous sources unimpeded by any agency of government , in particular departments of security and the DOJ. That is, unless those private conversations are to be held with the DOJ itself. Any such meeting must be "on the record". Unless of course the department has arranged a meeting to illegally leak private classified information involving our national security to said media organization. Involving the latter, the media will be glad to meet "off the record". ?????

    It's sounds like the real bullies and hypocrites here are the media organizations with a few scoops of arrogance and "above the law" mentality added to the recipe.

    May 30, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  12. morphy

    hey Bob , quit defending Holder, it's NOT about the news organizations it IS about Obama and Holder VIOLATING rights.

    May 30, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  13. Matt

    The "journalist" attending will need something to clean the holders DNA off their lips when this is over.

    May 30, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  14. Dave

    Bob – But don't you see? Transparency is for Democrats. Not reporters, or anonymous sources.

    May 30, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  15. HJC

    The news organizations should not be politely declining to attend. They should angrily decline and demand better.

    Informed Americans are watching with great interest.

    May 30, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  16. jerry5555

    It's all Bush's fault!!! ahahahahah. I love it – Finally, this community organizer's administration is being seen for what it is... a joke! Now, even the liberal media is turning on his people! So much for the "Change" he promised throughout his campaigns!

    May 30, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  17. Dietards

    Yeah, just lie to the Obama administration and report fully on what was said anyway. That's what they would do to you or me. And then they would sic the IRS on us and Holder would give an AK47 to an illegal immigrant and offer him lots and lots and lots of someone else's money if he would just shoot me in the face for Obama.

    May 30, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  18. Jasjan

    No mention of whether or not Fox intends to attend this off the record meeting. Or maybe they weren't invited?

    May 30, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  19. taraneh

    As if this a third rate petty dictator state!! In this United States of America, it is shocking beyond belief that an executive branch official would have the audacity to demand an off the record meeting WITH THE "FREE" OPEN PRESS!!!

    May 30, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  20. Chicago

    As an American citizen I am offended. Holder wants an off the record meeting with journalists...why? So he can say, "trust me, it's all good...nothing to see here...move along" and expect the media to stay silent as it was the past few years? I'm sorry, its time for the wink-wink between the White House and the media to end. We have a president using the IRS to hold down political opponents, cover stories when it comes to terrorist attacks, personal investigations of media members who dare to question this administration, and who knows what else that has slipped by. How about it America...happy with this kind of change?

    May 30, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  21. Rob W

    Personally, I think he wants this meeting off the record so he can tell these guys that the journalist named as a "co-conspirator" in the justice department leaks actually committed a crime that the "freedom of the press" defense doesn't cover. But even if that's not the case, it's silly to expect what essentially amounts to a brainstorming session to be on the record. You can't come up with creative, cooperative solutions with the national media pointing cameras and microphones at your face and recording every word you utter. Once the AG and the media agree on a general direction for these guidelines, open, on-the-record meetings should be back on the table.

    May 30, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  22. seanster5977

    Of course Politico will be there. They got to keep those boots licked clean.

    May 30, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  23. VillageViking

    It's tougher for Holder to do what he does best when on the record...and that's LIE!!!

    May 30, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  24. Bill

    That dirtbag has the balls to to have a closed-door meeting to TELL them how to report his illegal activity... No, no red flag there at all!! WOW!

    May 30, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  25. TAK

    Let me get this straight. The AP releases a classified report on a thwarted terror plot in Yemen so the DoJ investigates the AP. And the republicans are mad at DoJ?!? Where's the outrage at the national security breach by the AP? I guess GOP hatred of Holder outstrips their alleged love of country.

    May 30, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
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