By Jonathan Easley - 05/29/13 03:02 PM EDT
The top two Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee have 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. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), the chairman of the subcommittee on investigations, sent a letter to Holder on Wednesday detailing specific aspects of his testimony that they say conflicts with subsequent media reports about Holder’s involvement in the surveillance of James Rosen, a reporter for Fox News.
“We believe — and we hope you will agree — it is imperative that the Committee, the Congress, and the American people be provided a full and accurate account of your involvement in and approval of these search warrants.”
The Hill first reported of the pending investigation on Tuesday.
The panel is looking at a statement Holder made during an exchange with Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) about whether the DOJ could prosecute reporters 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 time.
Media reports later found that Holder personally approved a search warrant that labeled Rosen a co-conspirator in a national security leaks case.
The panel is investigating whether the reports contradict Holder’s 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?” 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?”
The committee is seeking all regulations and internal Justice Department policies governing the issuance of search warrants for members of the media.
The DOJ has said it never intended to prosecute Rosen. The lawmakers’ letter asks Holder why the search warrant though identified the reporter as a “co-conspirator.”
Sensenbrenner has already called for Holder to resign, and said if he fails to do so, President Obama should fire him.
Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, told The Hill that Holder was “forthright” with the panel and that there was “no need to turn a policy disagreement into allegations of misconduct.”
This story was updated at 11:33 a.m.