The Justice Department on Monday said Attorney General Eric Holder did not lie to Congress in his testimony about a national security investigation involving Fox News reporter James Rosen.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik said the DOJ never intended to prosecute Rosen, but was merely investigating him as part of a broader probe against a State Department employee believed to have leaked information to the reporter.
The two lawmakers had asked the DOJ a series of questions about an affidavit the government filed citing Rosen as a criminal co-conspirator in a case it was bringing against State Department employee Stephen Kim.
Holder testified before the committee last month that he had never been involved in the prosecution of a journalist for partaking in the unauthorized disclosure of information.
But Holder had to sign off on the warrant to secretly search Rosen’s email and phone records, which named the reporter as an aider and abettor of the accused government employee.
The discrepancy raised questions for Goodlatte about whether the attorney general misled Congress. Kadzik argued that Justice never intended to prosecute Rosen, meaning Holder’s testimony was entirely accurate.
“At no time during the pendency of this matter — before or after seeking the search warrant — have prosecutors sought approval to bring criminal charges against the reporter,” he wrote.
“The attorney general’s testimony before the committee on May 15, 2013, with respect to the department’s prosecutions of the unauthorized disclosure of classified information was accurate and consistent with these facts.”
The two lawmakers slammed the DOJ’s response on Monday as grossly inadequate and said they are still expecting a response from Holder himself by Wednesday.
“By having a subordinate send this response rather than Attorney General Holder himself, this response begs the question of whether Holder has something to hide,” said Goodlatte in a statement. “Attorney General Holder still has yet to respond to our letter. He can’t outsource the responsibility for his actions to lower level staff — the buck stops with him.”
Sensenbrenner said the response from the DOJ on Monday was “insulting” and “fails to answer the questions raised by his misleading testimony.”
On Friday, Goodlatte had questioned whether the DOJ — if it did not actually intend to bring criminal charges against Rosen — lied to the judge on its warrant application to ensure it was approved.
“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.
Holder has been under intense scrutiny by lawmakers and the media over the past couple of weeks because of the DOJ’s secret pursuit of Rosen’s records, as well as the secret subpoenas it used to obtain telephone records of at least 20 Associated Press employees in a separate leaks investigation.
In an attempt to address concerns, Holder has begun holding a series of off-the-record meetings with top officials at major news outlets in D.C. and intelligence officials in an effort to reform the DOJ’s internal investigation policies with regards to media organizations.
While some news outlets attended the meetings, many groups rebuffed his offer, saying that the discussions should be public.
This story was updated at 5:36 p.m.