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Media parlay: Holder to meet with press after leak probe

Let the Eric Holder mea culpa tour begin.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on  March 6, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 6, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Let the Eric Holder mea culpa tour begin.

The attorney general--whose Justice Department is coming under fire for authorizing subpoenas for journalists’ personal information--is going into damage control mode, meeting with several media organizations this week as part of an agency review that President Obama has mandated. NBC News said it planned to attend the meeting.  Some media organizations, including the New York Times and the Associated Press have said they will boycott the meeting because it will be off-the-record.

"We will not be attending the session at DOJ," New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson said in a statement. "It isn't appropriate for us to attend an off the record meeting with the attorney general. Our Washington bureau is aggressively covering the department's handling of leak investigations at this time."

AP spokesperson Erin Madigan told Politico: "We believe the meeting should be on the record and we have said that to the Attorney General’s office. If it is on the record, AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll will attend. 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."

The review comes after news surfaced that Holder greenlighted a controversial search warrant for Fox News reporter James Rosen’s private emails over a story he did about North Korea’s nuclear program. The Justice Department is also coming under scrutiny for secretly seizing phone records of Associated Press journalists for an investigation into the leaking of information about a CIA operation in Yemen to stop a bomb plot. In the latter probe, Holder has insisted he recused himself from the matter and that it was his deputy, James Cole, who approved the subpoena.

Obama, who says he was unaware of the DOJ’s practices, has carefully tried to strike a balance between national security concerns and a commitment to a free press. The president said last week that he directed Holder to review the existing guidelines on subpoenas related to reporters and to meet with media organizations to voice their concerns. Holder is expected to report back to the president by July 12.

Obama called on New York Sen. Chuck Schumer earlier this month to reintroduce media shield legislation to protect the press. Schumer announced Sunday that he has formed a new bipartisan “Gang of 8” to draft a media shield law. A bipartisan group in the House has also backed the legislation.

That hasn’t stopped some who have gone as far to call on Holder to resign, including Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. On Wednesday, Jonathan Turley, a prominent liberal attorney and law professor, also said Holder should be “fired” in a USA Today column.

Turley wrote that Holder has “supervised a comprehensive erosion of privacy rights, press freedom and due process.”

The GOP-led House doesn’t seem to be loosening their grip on Holder.

The House Judiciary Committee now wants to determine whether the attorney general may have lied under oath during his recent testimony before the panel. In a letter sent to Holder on Wednesday, the committee asked Holder to clarify the department’s policy on how it handled search warrants for Rosen, the Fox News reporter.

Two weeks prior—amid revelations that the DOJ targeted the AP—Holder said he had not been personally involved in the potential prosecution of a journalist who made sensitive information public. “With regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, that is not something I have ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be a wise policy,” he said.

Since that testimony, NBC News has reported that Holder approved a search warrant for Rosen’s email. A department official did not immediately return a request for comment.

“How can you claim to have never "been involved" in the potential prosecution of the press but were admittedly involved in discussions regarding Mr. Rosen?” GOP Reps. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin wrote in the letter.

A source close to Holder told Politico that looking back, the attorney general  regrets parts of the investigation involving Rosen and in regard to the AP probe, the DOJ may have took in more phone lines than necessary.