Follow-up to a story from before the Memorial Day weekend: A report in The Hill says “the House Judiciary CommitteeÂ is investigating whether Attorney General Eric Holder lied under oath during his May 15 testimony on the Justice Departmentâ??s (DOJ) surveillance of reporters.”
The panel is looking at a statement Holder made during a back and forth with Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) about whether the DOJ could prosecute reporters under the Espionage Act of 1917.
â??In regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material — this is not something Iâ??ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy,â? Holder said during the hearing.
However, NBC News reported last week that Holder personally approved a search warrant that labeled Fox News chief Washington correspondent James Rosen a co-conspirator in a national security leaks case.
Rep. Johnson, apparently galled that his question might spell doom for a Democrat Attorney General, wants to let Holder off the hook:
Johnson defended the attorney general, saying Holderâ??s statement was specific to the line of questioning about the Espionage Act and not meant to pertain to other investigations.
â??The attorney generalâ??s statement that no journalists have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act during his tenure is accurate,â? he told The Hill. â??My point remains that the law as written could be misused. Congress is responsible for protecting the press while giving law enforcement the tools to prosecute officials who leak classified information. I support considering amendments to the Espionage Act and passing the Free Flow of Information Act to refine this balance.â?
Balderdash. Â The entire exchange between Johnson and Holder appears below. Â Holder’s possibly perjured statement about never having been “involved in,” or even hearing about, the potential prosecution of the press occurs in the last minute of the six-minute clip. Â The Espionage Act is discussed, but there’s no way to pretend this was a highly focused exchange based solely on that Act.
At the time of this exchange (May 15) the Fox News story had not broken yet. Â NBC News broke the story about Holder’s signature on the Rosen search warrants on May 23. Â ButÂ Eric HolderÂ knew the whole story at the moment he gave his false answer to Rep. Johnson’s question.
Rosen most certainly was identified as a criminal “co-conspirator” on these warrants. Â In fact, according to the NBC News report, Rosen was compared to an enemy agent running a spy ring… and you’ll never guess which Act was therefore invoked on the FBI affidavit:
In an affidavit in support of a search warrant to Google for Rosen’s emails, an FBI agent wrote that the Fox News journalist — identified only as “the Reporter” — had “asked, solicited and encouraged Mr. Kim to disclose sensitive United States internal documents and intelligence information.”
“The Reporter did so by employing flattery and playing to Mr. Kim’s vanity and ego,â? it continued. â??Much like an intelligence officer would run a clandestine intelligence source, the Reporter instructed Mr. Kim on a covert communications plan that involved” emails from his gmail account.
The affidavit states that FBI agents had tracked Rosenâ??s entrances and exits of the State Department in order to show that they had coincided with Kimâ??s movements. Based on that and other findings, the affidavit by FBI Agent Reginald B. Reyes, stated, â??There is probable cause to believe that the Reporter has committed a violationâ? of the Espionage Act â??at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator of Mr. Kim.â?
It also said that Google was specifically instructed not to notify â??the subscriberâ? — Rosen — that his emails were being seized.
So even under Rep. Johnson’s slippery rendition of the exchange between himself and Eric Holder, the Attorney General most definitelyÂ wasÂ knowingly involved in the potential prosecution of a journalist under the Espionage Act.
The Hill quotes Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) of the Judiciary Committee calling for Holder’s resignation:
â??As we saw in Fast and Furious and are seeing now, Attorney General Holder refuses to hold himself accountable,â? he said. â??He misled the Judiciary Committee under oath when he said he had not heard about Fast and Furious and he misled us again when he claimed to be unaware of the AP scandal. The head of DOJ should be someone the American people can trust. Attorney General Holder should resign.â?
Really, how many times must we return to this Incompetence Defense from Holder before he is relieved of responsibility for a department he claims not to understand or control? Â A hilariously sugaryÂ Daily BeastÂ puff piece called “Holder’s Regrets and Repairs” pushes the hot new Incompetence Defense variation that Holder is learning about his department’s scandals by reading the newspaper, just like the rest of us:
But for Attorney General Eric Holder, the gravity of the situation didnâ??t fully sink in until Monday morning when he read the WashingtonÂ Postâ??s front-page story, sitting at his kitchen table. Quoting from the affidavit, the story detailed how agents had tracked Rosenâ??s movements in and out of the State Department, perused his private emails, and traced the timing of his calls to the State Department security adviser suspected of leaking to him. Then the story, quoting the stark, clinical language of the affidavit, described Rosen as â??at the very least … an aider, abettor and/or co-conspiratorâ? in the crime. Holder knew that Justice would be besieged by the twin leak probes; but, according to aides, he was also beginning to feel a creeping sense of personal remorse.
Imagine the cloud of Cheerios and milk flying across the room as Holder read this astonishing story in theÂ Washington Post,Â and cut loose with a jaw-popping spit-take of personal remorse.
He’s also described as “particularly stung by the leak controversy,Â Â in large part because his departmentâ??s – and his own – actions are at odds with his image of himself as a pragmatic lawyer with liberal instincts and a well-honed sense of balance – not unlike the president he serves.” Â Doesn’t this belong in a satirical publication, like the Onion?
TheÂ Daily BeastÂ also says “Holder’s own personal soul-searching has already begun, with, among other things, the question of why he signed off on an affidavit that in retrospect he believed may have crossed the line.” Â While he’s rooting around in his soul for the answer to that question, he should also ask himself why he made false statements to Congress under oath.