Attorney General Eric Holder will go on a public relations campaign this week in an attempt to convince the journalism community and First Amendment advocates that his Justice Department did not attempt to chill and target journalists.
Mainstream media organizations have reliably bought the Obama administration’s spin in the past, but Holder may be unlikely to find a receptive audience this time.
Before Holder formally sits down this week with top executives and editors from mainstream press organizations and First Amendment advocates that have turned against him, though, a Justice Department official previewed some of the spin that may be in Holder’s playbook.
The official claimed to Politico that the DOJ was never “targeting AP or its ability to gather or report the news” when it subpoenaed phone records of Associated Press reporters in an effort to, presumably, chill the organization and send a message to other journalists. The official asserted the DOJ was merely focused on “finding the leaker.” The official continued, “The Department did not monitor, or attempt to obtain the content of, any telephone conversations.” In addition, the DOJ is claiming that the “toll records include only the sort of information the public commonly sees on their telephone bills, and do not include any information about the content of any conversations.”
The official also told Politico that Holder intends to start a “series of discussions that will continue to take place over the coming weeks” with other outlets in which Holder will “engage with a diverse and representative group of news media organizations, including print, wires, radio, television, online media and news and trade associations.” Holder will also reportedly speak to “news media executives and general counsels as well as government experts in intelligence and investigative agencies.”
This public relations offensive comes as even former Obama administration allies on the left, like Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, wrote–in USA Today–that Holder should be fired because he does not have the credibility to investigate himself on the leak investigations.
Sources close to Holder, in a monumental damage control effort, have already tried to “humanize” him by leaking the story that he feels regret for the “breadth and wording of the investigation involving Fox’s James Rosen.”
And the Justice Department is continuing to paint Holder as someone who is now remorseful. The official told Politico that Holder now “recognizes the subpoena for AP records took in more phone lines than necessary,” and he “realizes that things might have gotten a little out of balance, and he wants to make changes to be sure the rules fully account for the balance between the First Amendment and law enforcement.”