Schumer told reporters that he had been planning to reintroduce his bill it this week and “coincidentally” heard from White House officials Wednesday morning urging him to reintroduce the bill.
Under a compromise struck in 2009, the measure would let federal judges deny a subpoena aimed at a journalist if they found that the benefit the public would gain from learning of the news outweighed the importance of identifying government authorities who leaked the information. This would include, in some instances, the public release of classified national security information.
The White House’s support for the measure came as Holder appeared before the House Judiciary Committee, marking the first official attempt by Congress to seek some accountability for his department’s decision to pursue the phone records of Associated Press journalists as part of an investigation into a leak of classified material about a failed al-Qaeda plot.
Wednesday’s hearing had been scheduled for some time and was not called in response to the controversies of the past few days. Citing the fact that he recused himself from the probe into the leak, Holder offered little in the way of new information about the phone records.
“This is both an ongoing matter and an ongoing matter about which I know nothing,” he said.
The issue has thrust Holder squarely back into the spotlight. Throughout his tenure, President Obama’s attorney general has been a consistent target of conservative criticism, and Republicans have renewed their assault this week. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called for Holder’s job Tuesday, and Wednesday, Holder tangled with several Republicans on the Judiciary Committee.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) charged at one point that Holder doesn’t “have all that much credibility.” At another, a tense exchange erupted between the attorney general and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) over the subject of Assistant Attorney General and labor secretary nominee Thomas Perez. Holder labeled Issa’s conduct “unacceptable” and “shameful.”
When reminded by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) that he was at the hearing because Congress has oversight over his department, Holder quipped back: “I didn’t show up here because I really wanted to.”
It wasn’t just Republicans who offered criticism over the phone records. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said: “It seems to me clear that the actions of the department have in fact impaired the First Amendment.”