Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) on Friday questioned whether the Justice Department lied on its warrant to secretly obtain a Fox News reporter’s email and phone records.
Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Chairman, is investigating whether Attorney General Eric Holder perjured himself in testimony to Congress about the DOJ’s investigation of a leak of classified information to Fox reporter James Rosen.
Goodlatte wrote a letter to Holder earlier this week asking for an explanation about why the government named Rosen as a criminal "co-conspirator” in the warrant application it used to convince a judge to grant it permission to spy on Rosen’s personal email accounts and tracks his whereabouts in and out of the State Department building.
On Friday, Goodlatte went a step further, questioning whether the DOJ — if it did not actually intend to bring criminal charges against Rosen — lied to the judge on its warrant application because Justice officials suspected the warrant would not be approved otherwise.
“That raises an additional very alarming concern, and that is: Is the Justice Department putting false information in their warrants to get the information they want because they could not have received a warrant with regard to Mr. Rosen unless they accused him of a crime?” Goodlatte said in an interview with Fox News.
A spokesperson for Justice has said that the government never moved to prosecute Rosen on any criminal grounds and that the warrant was solely designed to get evidence to be used against Kim for allegedly giving Rosen access to classified information.
“At no time during the leak case involving Stephen Kim, before or after the FBI sought the search warrant, have prosecutors sought approval to bring criminal charges against the reporter,” the DOJ spokesperson said.
“The search warrant application in the Kim matter was focused on obtaining evidence relating to allegations that a government official had leaked highly classified information, which was a threat to our national security.”
Justice said that the warrant application “was drafted during the investigation phase of the case, which came before any decisions about prosecution.” The DOJ does not anticipate filing any additional charges in the case against Kim, said the spokesperson, stressing that Holder has never sought the prosecution of a reporter during his time as attorney general.
The Judiciary Committee’s investigation centers around a statement Holder made during an exchange with Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) earlier this month about whether reporters could be prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917.
“In regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material — this is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy,” Holder said at the hearing.
The DOJ later confirmed that Holder personally signed off on a search warrant that labeled Rosen a co-conspirator in the case against Kim.
Goodlatte has demanded answers by next Wednesday about whether Holder’s direct involvement in the Rosen warrant contradict his claim that he had not looked into or been involved with a possible prosecution of the press in a leaks case.
“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?” Goodlatte’s letter to Holder 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?”
Holder has been under intense scrutiny this week by lawmakers and the media for the DOJ’s secret pursuit of Rosen’s records as well as the telephone records of at least 20 Associated Press employees in a separate leaks investigation.
In an attempt to address concerns, Holder has offered to hold a series of off-the-record meetings with top officials at major news outlets in D.C. but many media groups have rebuffed his offer, saying that the discussions should be public.