“There’s a difference between searching someone — and getting access to their phone records and emails — and prosecuting someone,” said Darryl Brown, a professor at the University of Virginia Law School.

“Holder was saying I haven’t signed off on charging this reporter with a crime, but he left out the fact that he had signed off on a warrant to search this reporter and maybe they were searching for evidence to prosecute someone else.

“There’s nothing necessarily contradictory about the fact that he has approved the warrant to search the reporter, and also claimed to have not signed off on a prosecution of the reporter,” Brown said.

FBI Director Robert Mueller, under questioning from Republicans last week, told the Judiciary committee that that labeling a target of an investigation as a criminal co-conspirator does not indicate a desire to prosecute them.