Speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon, Attorney General Eric Holder revealed that he recused himself months, maybe years ago, from the Associated Press [AP] phone line investigation. It was revealed yesterday that the Department of Justice had tapped 20 work and personal phone lines of AP reporters and editors due to a suspected national security leak.
"I recused myself from this matter...it was early on," Holder said, unable to give an exact date.
By law, Holder is responsible for signing off on subpoenas that would allow such an intrusive invasion of privacy and on free speech. However, because he recused himself from the case, his Deputy Attorney General James Cole signed off on the case and the subpoenas. As a reminder, Cole was also embroiled in the Fast and Furious scandal with Holder.
"I don't know what the circumstances were here....I frankly don't have the knowledge of those facts," Holder said when asked about the AP phone tapping, adding that he believes DOJ officials followed all proper subpoena procedures. "This administration has put a real value on the rule of law."
The law requires Justice Department probes into reporter communications be very limited and precise. In the AP case, 20 phone lines, both personal and private, were monitored.
"I would refer you to the Deputy Attorney General," Holder said when asked if the scope of the probe was too big.
When asked about the IRS targeting conservative groups, Holder said he has opened a criminal investigation into the case to see if any laws were broken.