Eric Holder Recused Himself From Case Involving AP Phone Records

Attorney General Eric Holder revealed today that he hasn’t been involved in the criminal investigation that resulted in the seizure of  the phone records of Associated Press reporters for nearly a year:

Attorney General Eric Holder recused himself from the Department of Justice’s decision to secretly seize two months of phone records of Associated Press journalists.

Holder said he recused himself early on in the DOJ’s investigation of what he described as some of the most serious leaks from government officials that jeopardized national security.

He said because he recused himself early he did not have all the facts surrounding the investigation.

“I don’t know all that went into the formulation of the subpoena,” Holder said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Holder however did say the leak that sparked the subpoena was “a very serious leak.”

“This was a very serious leak. A very very serious leak,” Holder said. “It put the American people at risk, and that is not hyperbole. It put the American people at risk.

Earlier on Tuesday a DOJ official said the recusal came as a result of Holder being interviewed as part of the ongoing investigation into the leaks.

“To avoid any potential appearance of a conflict of interest, the Attorney General recused himself from this matter,” said the official.

The official said that Deputy Attorney General James Cole signed off on the subpoena authorizing the seizure of the AP’s phone records last year.

Given that there is still an ongoing criminal investigation with regard to the leaks, it’s unlikely that we’ll hear much of anything about this AP story any time soon. Additionally, while there are serious First Amendment issues raised by the seizure of journalist’s phone records, the only real question at this point is whether the Justice Department followed it’s own procedures regarding these types of subpoenas. As long as that’s the case, it seems unlikely that anything will come of this story even though it ought to lead to a serious discussion about reporter’s rights in these types of situations.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Jr says:

    The outrage of this is hilarious from the press. Now they realize that their fourth amendment rights have been watered down. Legally, the DOJ can do this through a Subpoena or just merely asking the phone companies for the calling logs and sadly it has been like this for 34 years.

  2. C. Clavin says:

    More Republicanist hoo-ha over nothing.
    Darrell Issa is on the case!!!
    Impeach the President!!!
    What a pathetic group the GOP has become.

  3. Jr says:

    @C. Clavin: To be fair though, a lot of the Republicans aren’t making much noise about this since many of them wanted the DOJ to crackdown harder on leaks.

  4. Ben Wolf says:

    This is another way of saying that he deliberately remained ignorant so he could deny responsibility.

    It makes him look more guilty, not less.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:


    To be fair though, a lot of the Republicans aren’t making much noise about this since many of them wanted the DOJ to crackdown harder on leaks.

    As Alex Pareene said:

    The other problem Republicans face when attempting to use this scandal to impeach the president is that Republicans demanded the leak investigations that led to the U.S. attorney obtaining the phone logs. Republicans spent months last year attacking the administration for leaks. They claimed that Obama was purposefully leaking sensitive, national security-endangering information to journalists, in an attempt to have more stories printed showing how tough on terror his administration was

  6. stonetools says:

    I’m hoping that as a result of this, we’ll have a discussion of the Fourth Amendment and maybe go on to trim back the expansion of government power in this area. Maybe Congress can start by repealing the Patriot Act….

    Heh, that was hilarious, wasn’t it? Now tell me one…

  7. stonetools says:


    Well, considering that the Republicans cut funding for diplomatic post security, then turned around and accused the Administration of causing the deaths of diplomatic personnel by failing to secure a particular diplomatic post…

    No, I think, the Republicans WILL try to make a scandal out of this, and will likely have some success. Never underestimate the complicity of the media in ginning up these scandals, and the weakness of the Democratic response.

  8. edmondo says:

    Eric Holder is still Attorney General? The last time anyone heard from him he was on the side of a milk carton.

  9. Dazedandconfused says:

    Holder not being involved should shorten this one a bit.

  10. anjin-san says:

    @ edmondo

    Eric Holder is still Attorney General? The last time anyone heard from him he was on the side of a milk carton.

    So what will it be tomorrow? Holder is a key cog in Obama’s oppressive, overreaching, overbearing regime? And then the next day he will be an MIA empty suit again. The right has a remarkable ability to morph Obama and his crew into whatever they need them to be to support the latest Fox News fantasy…