Following the Justice Department (DoJ) announcement this week that it intended to invite the Washington bureau chiefs of national news organizations to an off-the-record meeting, in order to discuss new guidelines for subpoenas of reporters, Attorney General Eric Holder finds himself snubbed by the New York Times and Associated Press (AP).
Both organizations are objecting to the closed-door arrangement, insisting that any such discussions should be on record.
Following revelations that the DoJ had obtained two months of phone records of AP reporters and editors, The Attorney General has initiated an outreach campaign, aimed at the national media. A Justice Department official told Politico’s “Playbook” “The A.G. 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.” He went on to say “Attorney General Eric Holder will hold meetings with several Washington bureau chiefs of national news organizations in the next two days as part of the review of existing Justice Department guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters.
The series of meetings, which was announced by President Obama last Thursday, are scheduled to take place over a number of weeks and will be attended by Attorney General Eric Holder himself. A wide variety of media outlets are being invited to attend; including print newspapers, wire services, radio and online news organizations. It appears, however, that the Attorney General has been turned down by both the New York Times and Associated Press.
Politico received a statement from AP spokesperson Erin Madigan which said “We believe the meeting should be on the record and we have said that to the Attorney General’s office. If it is on the record, AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll will attend. If it is not on the record, AP will not attend and instead will offer our views on how the regulations should be updated in an open letter. We would expect AP attorneys to be included in any planned meetings between the Attorney General’s office and media lawyers on the legal specifics.”
The New York Times (NYT) had already rejected the idea of the meeting, due to its off-the-record nature. The NYT statement by executive editor Jill Abramson said “We will not be attending the session at DOJ. It isn’t appropriate for us to attend an off the record meeting with the attorney general. Our Washington bureau is aggressively covering the department’s handling of leak investigations at this time.”
On the heels of the AP phone records scandal came the additional revelation that the Justice Department had also issued a warrant to search a personal email account of Fox New reporter James Rosen, as part of a separate investigation. When questioned by a congressional committee about his involvement with the seizure of AP phone records, Holder had stated “with regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, that is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of or would think would be wise policy.” The Justice Department later admitted, however, that the Attorney General had been directly involved in discussions regarding the warrant for James Rosen’s email account.
With questions still lingering over Operation Fast and Furious – which resulted in Holder being held in contempt of Congress – and the subsequent probes into the Obama administration’s handling of the Benghazi attack, the IRS targeting of Conservative groups and now DoJ investigations of the press, the federal government finds itself in full damage-control mode. The New York Times and the Associated Press have both been very supportive of the current administration. For them now to snub the Attorney General will be perceived as an additional embarrassment for both Holder and President Obama.
UPDATE: Two more major news organizations have joined the boycott of Eric Holder’s meeting. CNN has announced that it will not be attending and the far-Left Huffington Post has also backed out. Washington bureau chief, Ryan Grim, said “A conversation specifically about the freedom of the press should be an open one. We have a responsibility not to betray that.”
Written by Graham J Noble