According to Eric Holder, Eric Holder is no more responsible for the investigation of the Associated Press than Barack Obama is for events in Benghazi according to Barack Obama. That was Holder’s theme in his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, which I first read about yesterday in a post by Allahpundit at Hot Air.
Looking around for a narrative account of Holder’s testimony this morning, I find the liberal hack Eleanor Clift writing at the Daily Beast about Holder’s response to questions involving “the secret subpoena of the AP’s phone records” in the leak investigation:
He couldn’t remember when he recused himself, or even exactly how he did it, only that it was before the subpoena was issued, and that a staff search revealed nothing in writing. Alabama Republican Spencer Bachus nailed it when he said, “Do you think it would be a best practice to memorialize that recusal in writing?” By then, the subject had come up several times, and Holder said that just thinking about it through the hearing, his critics were right.
Fear not that anything untoward has occurred. Holder promised: “I pledge to the American people an after-action analysis.” Well, alright.
John and Paul comment on the AP leak investigation here. I urged the Bush administration to investigate the worst national security leaks mostly involving the New York Times in “Exposure” for the Weekly Standard and many times on Power Line. Indeed, I urged prosecution of the reporters involved, who seemed to me to have violated our espionage laws. Yesterday former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said that the Bush administration once considered issuing the type of subpoena that the Justice Department issued against the AP, but ultimately opted against it. Did any Bush administration leak investigation expose the wrongdoers (other than those whose names appeared in the bylines of the Times articles)? I don’t think so.
The notorious national-security leaks that were featured on page one of the Times during the Bush administration seem to me to have done vastly greater harm than the leaks involved in the AP story. Here is the original AP story of May 2012 that appears to have triggered the leak investigation in which the AP phone records were subpoenaed. (I found the AP story via Max Fisher’s comments on the investigation.) Here are the key paragraphs about the AP’s communications with the White House:
The AP learned about the thwarted plot last week but agreed to White House and CIA requests not to publish it immediately because the sensitive intelligence operation was still under way.
Once those concerns were allayed, the AP decided to disclose the plot Monday despite requests from the Obama administration to wait for an official announcement Tuesday.
The White House confirmed the story after the AP published it on Monday afternoon. Caitlin Hayden, the deputy national security council spokeswoman, said in a statement that Obama was first informed about the plot in April by his homeland security adviser John Brennan, and was advised that it did not pose a threat to the public.
Conor Fridersdorf takes a look at the subpoena of the AP phone records in the context of Holder’s characterization of the leak investigation. It seems to me that Friedersdorf raises a good question about the alleged harm caused by the AP story. I think it’s fair to say that skepticism is warranted and, as to Holder’s testimony yesterday, a laugh track would be appropriate.
NOTE: In the original version of this post, I said exactly the opposite of what I meant about the apparent seriousness of the leaks leading to the AP article versus the leaks leading to the notorious Times articles. I have revised the post accordingly.
STEVE adds: The Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank also thinks Holder’s appearance was pathetic, calling it an “abdication”:
Holder seemed to regard this ignorance as a shield protecting him and the Justice Department from all criticism of the Obama administration’s assault on press freedoms. But his claim that his “recusal” from the case exempted him from all discussion of the matter didn’t fly with Republicans or Democrats on the committee, who justifiably saw his recusal as more of an abdication. . . when the Justice Department undermines the Constitution, recusal is no excuse.
The cracks in the dam are starting to leak.