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Attorney General Says He Didn't Know About Press Snooping

Eric Holder told Congress that his Deputy Attorney General signed off on secret subpoenas for AP phone records.

Posted on May 15, 2013, at 2:13 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder repeatedly pled ignorance Wednesday about the Department of Justice's seizure of phone records of reporters and editors at the Associated Press.

"I don't know" was Holder's mantra, under questioning by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte. He said he really had no clue why there was such a "broad scope" of phone records taken from the wire service.

"Yeah there's been a lot of criticism. In fact the head of the RNC called for my resignation despite the fact that I had recused myself from that decision, but be that as it may," Holder said. "I was recused … with that decision to issue the subpoenas made by people who are presently involved in the case."

Holder initially told Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner he wasn't even sure who had authorized the secret seizure of the AP's phone records, though he said he was "95 to 99 percent sure" it was Deputy Attorney General James Cole. After a few minutes, one of his aides handed him a note allowing Holder, the top law enforcement official in the country, to confirm it was, in fact, Cole.

Goodlatte pushed Holder as to why, if the rules indicate that the DOJ should give media organizations fair warning before issuing a subpoena, it was not done in this case.

"There are exceptions to that rule, I'm not sure why in this particular case why it was or wasn't done. I simple don't know that," Holder said.

"I take it that you or others in the justice department will be forthcoming with those answers," Goodlatte said.