Holder to GOP: I meant no disrespect

Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday told Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee that he meant no disrespect by allowing a deputy to respond to their requests for information on a leak investigation.

By responding personally to Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Holder may have staved off a potential subpoena from the powerful lawmakers.

Goodlatte and Sensenbrenner last week asked Holder to give them more details about his role in the Justice Department’s secret examination of a Fox News reporter’s phone and e-mail records. Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik wrote the lawmakers two letters in response.

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The lawmakers dismissed the letters, saying that they wanted a direct response from Holder and not Kadzik, who handles legislative relations for Justice. Sensenbrenner called the first letter from Kadzik “insulting.”

They gave Holder until the end of Wednesday to respond personally, or potentially face a subpoena.

Late Wednesday, the DOJ released a letter from Holder to Goodlatte and Sensenbrenner that said Kadzik’s letters accurately reflect the DOJ's positions. The attorney general told the lawmakers he did not mean to disrespect them by not responding directly.

“Mr. Kadzik’s response on behalf of the department was consistent with the department’s long-standing practice of corresponding with members of Congress and was not intended to demonstrate disrespect in any way,” wrote Holder.

Holder also formally invited Goodlatte and Sensenbrenner to take part in meetings with him and Deputy Attorney General James Cole as part of the DOJ’s ongoing review of its policies on how and whether to target media organizations as part of investigations into leaks of classified information.

The Republican lawmakers are seeking more information about Holder’s role in signing off on a search warrant application that a federal judge approved authorizing the DOJ to spy on Fox News report James Rosen, who was named as a criminal co-conspirator in the government’s investigation of State Department employee Stephen Kim.

Kim is accused of leaking classified information to Rosen.

Holder testified before the Judiciary panel last month that he has never been involved in the prosecution of a reporter for unlawfully accepting classified material.

The lawmakers questioned whether his comments were intended to mislead Congress, arguing that by naming Rosen as a criminal co-conspirator, the DOJ and Holder may have intended to bring charges against him.

The DOJ stresses that it never did bring charges against Rosen, and never intended to, which is consistent with Holder’s remarks before the committee.

On Tuesday, the Justice Department defended its subpoenas of the Associated Press, which the Judiciary Committee is also investigating. In a letter to Goodlatte and Sensenbrenner, the DOJ said the subpoenas were narrowly tailored in a way that avoided tipping off the target of it’s investigation, the government leaker.  

Kadzik said the DOJ told the AP that it had examined the organization’s telephone records, only the notice was delayed for 90 days because of concerns that it could have jeopardized the investigation, which adheres to the DOJ’s internal guidelines.

“For example, through the negotiation process, the potential target (the leaker) could become aware of the investigation, its focus, and its scope, and seek to destroy evidence, create a false narrative as a defense, or otherwise obstruct the investigation,” wrote Kadzik on Tuesday.

Kadzik did not detail any specifics about why negotiations were bypassed in the AP case, stating that it was an ongoing criminal investigation and could not be openly discussed.