Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on Sunday said that Attorney General Eric Holder should not be in charge of investigating the Justice Department’s (DOJ) seizure of communication records of journalists who reported on classified information.
“You cannot investigate yourself,” said Coburn on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “I think it’s a total conflict of interest.”
Coburn stopped short of calling for special prosecutor to look into the claims that the DOJ breach reporters’ rights to privacy, as some Republicans lawmakers have done, however. But he insisted that someone other than Holder should lead the review.
“It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t investigate it,” Coburn said. “And it shouldn’t mean we shouldn’t be tough on that. But allowing the very person that authorized the two things that we are aware today to investigate whether or not he did that appropriately is inappropriate.
“I think we need to separate it from the attorney general, since the decisions were made by him or under him,” Coburn continued. “There’s an inherent conflict of interest in me judging whether or not I did something and reporting to the president.”
The criticism of the DOJ stems from an investigation of Fox News’s Washington correspondent James Rosen after he wrote a story in 2009 claiming that U.S. intelligence officials believed North Korea would likely test more nuclear weapons.
The agency allegedly kept track of Rosen’s phone records and visits to the State Department to trace the source of the leak.
Rosen was also dubbed a potential “criminal co-conspirator” in a warrant signed by Holder to allow law enforcement to seize the reporter’s private emails.
In a separate leak investigation, the DOJ also secretly seized over two months of phone records of Associated Press reporters.
The moves have led to congressional anger and vows to better defend press freedoms.