A formal presser is coming at 1:30 ET. It was supposed to start at 1 p.m. but was pushed back for unknown reasons. Hmmmm.
Attorney General Eric Holder is recusing himself from the investigation into leaks made to The Associated Press, Fox News has learned…
The Associated Press reported Monday evening that the Department of Justice had secretly obtained phone records involving as many as 20 reporters and editors in an effort to find out who leaked confidential information to it.
It was not known if Holder authorized or even knew about the investigation.
Fox hears that he’s recusing himself because he already testified about the May 2012 leak of a foiled terror plot in Yemen that allegedly spurred the DOJ investigation into the AP’s phone records. Could it really be true, though, that Holder might not have authorized, or even known about, the investigation? Nope, not according to the DOJ’s manual for U.S. Attorneys:
The DOJ’s U.S. Attorneys’ Manual is quite clear on this point:
“The Attorney General’s authorization is normally required before the issuance of any subpoena to a member of the news media or for the telephone toll records of a member of the news media. However, in those cases where the media member or his or her representative agrees to provide the material sought and that material has been published or broadcast, the United States Attorney or the responsible Assistant Attorney General may authorize issuance of the subpoena, thereafter submitting a report to the Office of Public Affairs detailing the circumstances surrounding the issuance of the subpoena….”
Because this probe was secret, the second condition was not met, meaning that Holder’s approval was necessary.
Jay Carney is speaking at today’s White House briefing as I write this and is apparently sticking to his story from last night that the White House had no idea about the DOJ looking into the AP’s records. That’s even harder to believe than Obama claiming that he didn’t know about the IRS targeting conservative groups until Friday, even though the White House’s legal counsel knew about it weeks ago. Digging around in the media’s phone calls last year, six months before a presidential election, was a potential landmine in Obama’s path to a second term; one would think Holder and his deputies wouldn’t spring something like that as a surprise on POTUS given the game-changing consequences it might have had for his career.
Presser’s coming up. Stand by for updates.
Update: The RNC wants more than just a recusal, needless to say:
“Attorney General Eric Holder, in permitting the Justice Department to issue secret subpoenas to spy on Associated Press reporters, has trampled on the First Amendment and failed in his sworn duty to uphold the Constitution,” said Priebus in a statement.
“Because Attorney General Holder has so egregiously violated the public trust, the president should ask for his immediate resignation. If President Obama does not, the message will be unmistakable: The President of the United States believes his administration is above the Constitution and does not respect the role of a free press,” he added.
Maybe Obama’s thinking he can get away with keeping Holder if he fires a bunch of people at the IRS instead, which seems a fait accompli.
Update: Former Bush AGs Michael Mukasey and John Ashcroft say investigating national-security leaks is legitimate, but fishing for clues by sifting through phone records from dozens of reporters is … unusual:
“When it comes to national security, I think the government has every right to investigate,” Mukasey said. “People do not have a right to leak confidential government information.”
However, Mukasey noted, they have to do it with a “narrow focus.”
“The AP suggests it was a broader gathering of information that should never have been authorized,” he told Fox News. Mukasey said it would be troubling if it is found that “they [the government] were looking more broadly to discourage people to talk to reporters.”
Mark Corallo, chief spokesman for another Bush attorney general, John Ashcroft, called the secret probe “unprecedented.”
“The normal course of business is very narrow and very tailored to a particular individual’s phone records,” said Corallo, who served for three years as director of public affairs under Ashcroft. “The idea that they would do two months – grab everything – in several bureaus is truly stunning and disgraceful.”
Update: Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow at 1 p.m.: Eric Holder. Can’t wait.
Update: CNN says Holder’s not recusing himself going forward, he had already recused himself when the original decision to subpoena the records was made.
Attorney General Eric Holder recused himself from the decision to subpoena the phone records of Associated Press reporters, a source told CNN’s Jessica Yellin on Tuesday. The approval fell to Deputy Attorney General James Cole, the source said.
So this is the story? The DOJ undertook a largely unprecedented fishing expedition of reporters’ phone records to find a leak, and neither Obama nor Holder had anything to do with it?
Update: Here’s Holder’s statement:
As the Attorney General testified in June 2012, he was interviewed by the FBI in connection with the investigation into the unauthorized disclosure of classified information,” the DOJ official said. “To avoid any potential appearance of a conflict of interest, the Attorney General recused himself from this matter. Since that time, this investigation has been conducted by the FBI under the direction of the U.S. Attorney and the supervision of the Deputy Attorney General, who has served as the Acting Attorney General overseeing this investigation. The decision to seek media toll records in this investigation was made by the Deputy Attorney General consistent with Department regulations and policies.
I’m confused. Where’s the conflict of interest that would have required Holder to recuse himself from the investigation? What exactly did the FBI interview him about?
He said this too: “Holder says that in his years as an attorney on these matters (since 1976), this leak was the most serious, or among the most serious, in terms of posing a threat to the American people.”