Top House Judiciary Committee Republicans on Wednesday demanded that Attorney General Eric Holder explain what they say is a contradiction in his sworn testimony at a May 15 hearing and subsequent revelations about his department's obtaining a search warrant in 2010 for e-mails of a Fox News reporter.
In a letter to Holder, Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., stop short of outright accusing Holder of perjury. But they are insisting that he respond to a list of questions by no later than June 5.
"We believe—and we hope you will agree—it is imperative that the Committee, the Congress, and the American people be provided a full and accurate account of your involvement in and approval of these search warrants," their letter states.
Under scrutiny is Holder's testimony to the committee during a May 15 hearing regarding the use of the Espionage Act to prosecute members of the media for publishing classified material.
What had prompted the questioning was the only publicly known instance at the time of the Justice Department obtaining phone records of journalists without notifying them, a matter involving the records of about 20 Associated Press journalists.
In a back-and-forth with Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., at that hearing, Holder at one point said, "With regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, that is not something that I have ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be a wise policy."
But the Justice Department has since reportedly confirmed media reports that Holder in May 2010 may have personally signed off on the application to the judge for the seizure of phone records and personal e-mails of James Rosen, a Fox News Channel reporter. The warrant was issued in the investigation of the publication of an article in June 2009 that was said to contain classified material.
In their letter, Goodlatte and Sensenbrenner tell Holder, "Subsequent media reports have stated that the Justice Department issued confirmation that the investigation of Mr. Rosen and the search warrant application for his private e-mails was approved 'at the highest levels' of the Justice Department, including 'discussions' with Attorney General Eric Holder."
Their letter goes on: "Whether you personally approved the search warrant request or were merely part of 'discussions' relating to a search warrant for Mr. Rosen's e-mails, it is clear now that you were aware that the Department was engaged in a criminal investigation of a member of the media as far back as 2010."
"This fact contradicts your testimony before the committee," they write.
"How can you claim to have never even 'heard of' the potential prosecution of the press but were, at a minimum, involved in discussions regarding Mr. Rosen?" their letter asks. It goes on to demand answers to this and other questions such as whether he personally read the search-warrant application and affidavit, and how his approval was "memorialized"?
The letter to Holder follows by a day the issuing of subpoenas to the State Department by the head of another House Committee—House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrel Issa, R-Calif.—for administration e-mails and other documents and communications regarding the attack last year on the U.S. compound in Benghazi.
This article appears in the May 30, 2013, edition of NJ Daily.