July 10, 2020

Holder Faces a New Round of Criticism

This time it is the news media and even some Democrats who are upset with Mr. Holder, who in recent days has taken steps seemingly aimed at assuaging them. He endorsed the enactment of a “media shield” law and invited leaders of news organizations to meet with him Thursday to discuss tightening rules on warrants and subpoenas for reporters’ records as part of leak investigations.

Even as Mr. Holder has sought to regain his footing, Republicans have resumed their criticism, accusing him of misleading Congress in testimony over whether the Justice Department has considered prosecuting journalists under the Espionage Act for publishing government secrets.

In a letter Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Representative Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia, and a Republican colleague, Representative Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, expressed “great concern” about Mr. Holder’s testimony before the committee this month, saying it “appeared to be at odds” with court documents that have come to light involving a warrant for e-mails of James Rosen, a Fox News reporter.

The prospect of a new round of perjury accusations from Congress has underscored that the furor over the leak investigations might pose a new threat to Mr. Holder, who surprised many Democrats by choosing to stay on after Mr. Obama’s re-election. For now, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are standing by Mr. Holder, even though the ranking member, Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, pronounced himself “deeply troubled” by some of the investigative tactics used in recent leak cases.

“Certainly, it is fair to ask additional questions about the Rosen investigation, and any role the attorney general may have played in it, but I do not believe it credible to level charges that he may have intentionally misled the committee on this matter before we know the facts of the case in question,” Mr. Conyers said.

In his only recent interview, Mr. Holder told The Daily Beast that the investigations obeyed existing laws and guidelines, but he also said the rules “need to be updated.” He called the furor “an opportunity for the department to consider how we strike the right balance between the interests of law enforcement and freedom of the press.”

The Daily Beast article also paraphrased unnamed aides as saying Mr. Holder was “also beginning to feel a creeping sense of personal remorse.”

Reid Weingarten, a lawyer who has been a friend of Mr. Holder’s for three decades, said Mr. Holder had discussed no such feelings with him. Rather, Mr. Weingarten said, the disclosure to Fox News of the existence of a rare intelligence source in North Korea was “a horrible leak and he was charged with the responsibility to get at it.” That raised what he said Mr. Holder described to him as a trade-off between press freedoms and the need to identify leakers — a problem for which there are no easy answers because it pits “two laudable goals” against each other.

“He’s not immune from the criticism, but I think he sees this First Amendment-security conflict as almost impossibly difficult,” Mr. Weingarten said, adding: “He hasn’t confessed or cried to me, that’s for sure. What I sense in conversations with him is how horribly difficult the dilemma is when you have this situation. It’s important to get it right, and if we didn’t get it right — and that’s a big if — let’s button up the process now.”

Matthew Miller, a friend and former top aide to Mr. Holder, portrayed the attorney general’s proposal to tighten laws and guidelines on when news media records may be obtained as coming out of a realization that one cannot expect law enforcement officials to do anything less than what the rules permit when pursuing a particular case.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/30/us/politics/holder-faces-a-new-round-of-criticism.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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