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House Judiciary Demands DOJ Answer for Holder Testimony, AP Phone Records Grab

The House Judiciary Committee sent a letter yesterday to Deputy Attorney General James Cole seeking answers regarding the Obama Administration’s decision to secretly subpoena two months of call records of AP reporters and editors.

Attorney General Eric Holder told the Committee last week that he had recused himself from the investigation, as he had been interviewed by the FBI in connection to the leaks leading to the subpoena. The letter asks for clarification of Holder’s role in the investigation.

The letter states:

At the House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing, Attorney General Holder repeatedly stated that he could not answer questions about the subpoenas because he lacked any knowledge of the investigation due to his recusal.  As Acting Attorney General for this investigation, you are in the best position to answer our questions in this matter.  Therefore, please respond to the following questions as soon as possible, but by no later than May 31, 2013:

1.      On what date did Attorney General Holder recuse himself from this investigation?

2.      How did you learn of Attorney General Holder’s recusal? Did Attorney General Holder personally inform you of his intent to recuse himself from the investigation?  Was his recusal made in writing or memorialized in any manner?

3.      Did every Justice Department official or employee who possessed the improperly disclosed information at issue in this investigation recuse themselves?  Did every Department official or employee interviewed by the FBI in connection with this investigation recuse themselves from this investigation?  Please provide a list of all Justice Department officials or employees who recused themselves from this investigation.

4.      Do you also possess the improperly disclosed information at issue in this investigation? If so, were you interviewed by the FBI in connection with this investigation? 

5.      If you do possess the information at issue in this investigation, why were you not required to also recuse yourself?  Please provide us with any and all applicable statutes, regulations or internal Justice Department policies that govern the recusal of a Department official or employee from an investigation.

6.      Attorney General Holder testified that he was “95% percent certain, that the Deputy Attorney General, acting in my stead, was the one who authorized the subpoena…..”  He then clarified that he believed you did personally approve the subpoena requests.  Please confirm that you did, in fact, personally approve and sign the subpoena requests for AP telephone toll records. 

7.      The Justice Department issued subpoenas for several telephone lines that are reportedly accessible to and used by a large number of reporters.  What steps did the Department take, if any, to narrow the scope of the telephone toll records request to ensure that only those telephone toll records made by the subject reporters and staff were obtained?  

8.      The Justice Department issued subpoenas for a telephone line located in the U.S. House of Representatives Press Gallery.  Are there any statutes, regulations or internal Justice Department policies applicable to requests for telephone toll records for a telephone located inside the U.S. Capitol complex, even if such telephone line is paid for by a media outlet? 

9.      28 CFR §50.10(b) requires the Department to take all reasonable alternative investigative steps prior to obtaining telephone toll records pertaining to a member of the media.  Please describe all of the alternative investigative steps the Department took in this investigation prior to issuing the subpoenas for the AP telephone toll records.

10.  It has been reported that the AP refrained from releasing the story of the Yemeni bomb plot for a week until Obama administration officials confirmed that doing so would not jeopardize national security interests.  This indicates a willingness on the part of the AP to work with the Justice Department on issues affecting national security.  Given this, why did the Department not seek the AP’s assistance with its request or provide notice to the AP prior to issuing the subpoenas? 

11.  28 CFR §50.10(d) requires prior notice to a media outlet where “the responsible Assistant Attorney General determines that such negotiations [with the media] would not pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation…”  Is it the Department’s position that a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation existed in this instance?  Please provide a detailed explanation of the facts and circumstances in this case that justified foregoing prior notice to the AP under the “substantial threat” exception.

The letter was signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) along with  Reps. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.),  Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), Randy Forbes (R-Va.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), George Holding (R-N.C.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), Ted Poe (R-Texas), and Lamar Smith (R-Texas).

The enitre letter can be viewed here.

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