Attorney General Eric Holder is facing new criticism from members of the press since Department of Justice subpoenas targeted journalists who gained leaked information.
President Obama has ordered Holder to review the Justice Department’s guidelines governing inquires into leaks as they relate to the news media. Part of this review has included an invitation to members of major news organizations for an off-the-record discussion.
The Associated Press, the New York Times, CBS, CNN, Fox News, and The Huffington Post have rejected the offer because the administration wants to keep the meeting’s contents closed to the public. The Washington Post, Politico, The Wall Street Journal, and ABC News have said they will be there. NBC News was invited but has decided not to attend.
Tensions between Holder and members of the press have heightened since the Justice Department seized phone records from Associated Press employees, and in a separate case, identified Fox News Reporter James Rosen as a co-conspirator in violation of the Espionage Act in a search warrant for his emails. Many journalists have since claimed that sources are now reluctant to talk to them out of fear they will be monitored.
NBC’s National Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff reports that Holder signed off on the search warrant for Rosen’s private email records.
“This is an interesting rebellion of sorts by the news media,” Isikoff said on NewsNation Thursday. “There was never really any intention to criminally indict James Rosen in this matter. They simply used that language in the search warrant in order to get access to his emails so they could criminally prosecute his source, his alleged source, Stephen Kim, who has in fact been indicted.”
Since search warrants are supposed to be carried out in good faith, and the criminal allegations against Rosen were not in good faith, Isikoff reported that federal judges “could have problems with that.”
Two top Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, have drawn attention to Holder’s testimony during a congressional hearing on May 15. They claim that if the attorney general signed off on the Rosen subpoena, he couldn’t have been telling the truth at the hearing when he testified, “With regard to the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, that is not something that I’ve ever been involved or heard of or would think would be a wise policy.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney defended Holder, explaining in a Wednesday press briefing that, “He testified truthfully...I think the Attorney General talked about prosecution. Every published report that I've read about the case in question says that it's completed; no further charges or prosecution is contemplated.”
Isikoff told msnbc’s Alex Wagner Thursday that Holder isn’t likely in any legal jeopardy over the comments. Isikoff did underscore that these developments highlight a broader attempt by the Obama administration to crack down those leaking information.
“The context here is that this administration has brought more leak prosecutions than any in history, using the Espionage Act six times to bring criminal prosecutions. They have been very clear, and they were very clear throughout the first term, that they intended to be quite vigorous and aggressive on this and they had no apologies for it.”
Watch Isikoff’s report with additional commentary from msnbc contributor Michael Smerconish, Bloomberg View Columnist Jonathan Alter, and Lois Romano from Politico in the player above.