House Judiciary Committee opens formal perjury investigation into Holder testimony

Eric Holder may face an uphill battle in his charm offensive with the media.  He’s already failing miserably on Capitol Hill.  Today the House Judiciary Committee opened a formal investigation into Holder’s testimony last week to determine if the Attorney General committed perjury:

The top two Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday formally initiated an investigation into whether Attorney General Eric Holder lied under oath during his May 15 testimony on the Justice Department’s (DOJ) surveillance of reporters.

Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), the chairman of the subcommittee on investigations, sent a letter to Holder detailing specific aspects of his testimony that they say conflicts with subsequent media reports.

The letter demands specific answers to questions raised by later revelations that, despite his protests to the contrary, Holder not only knew about Department of Justice efforts to accuse reporters of crimes under the Espionage Act of 1917, he personally approved the warrant that made the claim:

“How can you claim to have never been involved in the potential prosecution of a member of the media but you were admittedly involved in discussions regarding Mr. Rosen’s email?,” the letter asks. “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?”

Good questions, and the Judiciary Committee could go even farther. Holder’s signature appears on the Rosen warrant, which documents his involvement in the case despite his denial of knowledge of these efforts. Holder will need to provide some sort of explanation that squares this circle, which his charm offensive and expressions of a “creeping sense of remorse” are designed to avoid. The reply should be at least … entertaining.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) doesn’t sit on Judiciary, but does exercise oversight on national security as chair on Homeland Security. Despite the protestations of Holder over the leak probes on that basis, King told Newsmax’ Steve Malzberg yesterday that Holder’s statement “warrants a full investigation,” and that Americans have been prosecuted for perjury on less-clear grounds in the past:

King, a Republican from New York, was highly critical of Holder, who previously said he would never be part of targeting a reporter and didn’t think it was good policy, when he actually approved a search warrant on James Rosen. The House Judiciary Committee is reportedly looking into whether he perjured himself in steadfastly denying a role in the Rosen subpoena when he OK’d the seizure of the Fox reporter’s phone records.

King comments: “To me, on its face, that certainly could be perjury. And the reason I’m saying ‘could be’ — I know there’s always precise standards to meet — that certainly warrants a full investigation as to whether or not perjury was committed there. There’ve been other people over the years indicted for perjury or tried for perjury on a lot less evidence than that.”

Paul Mirengoff at Power Line explains that this won’t be too difficult to prove, given the preponderance of documentation on this point:

When he gave this testimony, Holder had personally signed a request to a court to authorize a wiretap on Fox News reporter James Rosen. The request stated that Rosen may have acted as “an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator” by obtaining national security materials from a government official also under investigation.

Bill Otis confirms that during his days as a federal prosecutor, telling the court that a wiretap target might have been an aider, abettor or co-conspirator in a serious federal crime “was most assuredly vouching that there was a potential prosecution of that target.”

Did Holder forget that he had signed the request to wiretap Rosen? I don’t see how he could have. Such requests, when they involve members of the press, are something any Attorney General would remember.

The probable result, says Mirengoff, will be Holder’s sudden desire to spend more time with his family. I’m not certain that will let Holder off the hook from legal action, either in terms of prosecution or disbarment, if Congress presses the case. Nor will either chamber of Congress be happy to see Deputy AG James Cole left in charge for very long, given his involvement in the AP records seizure and his interference with the House contempt indictment against Holder for failing to honor subpoenas in the Operation Fast and Furious investigation. Obama may have no choice now but to push Holder out, but that won’t rescue him from the political baggage Holder has created for him, and will make a confirmation hearing even more complicated for Holder’s successor.