Holder: Rosen warrant was only an ‘investigative step’

Attorney General Eric Holder defended his testimony before Congress, arguing that while a warrant to spy on a Fox News reporter’s emails sought “probable cause,” he was truthful when he told lawmakers there was never any intent to prosecute the journalist.

In a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) released late Wednesday night, Holder expanded on the Justice Department’s (DOJ) justification for naming reporter James Rosen as a criminal co-conspirator in its investigation of a classified leak.

“In order to proceed under the Privacy Protection Act, the government was required to establish that there was probable cause to believe that the reporter had committed or was committing a criminal offense to which the needed materials related,” wrote Holder.

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Holder, though, insisted that seeking the warrant to launch their leak probe did not signal any intent to criminally prosecute Rosen, calling it only an “investigative step.”

“Based on the facts establishing probable cause in the warrant application, a federal judge granted the warrant,” Holder continued. “As explained in our prior letters, the government’s decision to seek this search warrant was an investigative step, and at no time during this matter have prosecutors sought approval from me to bring criminal charges against the reporter.”

Goodlatte has been pressing for Holder to clear the air in regards to comments he made before the committee last month stating that the DOJ has never sought to prosecute a reporter for receiving classified information. 

The chairman and committee Republicans have questioned whether, by naming Rosen as a criminal co-conspirator in the DOJ’s warrant application, which Holder approved, the nation’s top cop misled Congress and actually intended to bring charges against the reporter.

The attorney general has repeatedly denied that the DOJ intended to prosecute Rosen.

“Consistent with that testimony, it remains my understanding that the department has never prosecuted a journalist for publishing classified information,” wrote Holder in Wednesday’s letter.

In his letter, Holder detailed answers to a series of eight questions on the Rosen case that Goodlatte had posed to him. 

In a statement, Goodlatte said he found several of Holder's answers "troubling" and that he intends to discuss them further when the attorney general comes to Capitol Hill later this month to meet with committee members. 

The meeting comes as part of Holder’s ongoing discussions with members of the media, legal experts and intelligence officials, which are being held in an attempt to revisit and revise the DOJ’s guidelines for seeking information from the media in the course of its investigations. 

Holder has been given until July 12 to report suggested changes to the guidelines to President Obama.

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