(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama defended his embattled Attorney General Eric Holder, embroiled in a scandal involving the Justice Department's secret seizing of two months of call records for more than 20 work and personal telephone lines used by reporters and editors of the Associated Press.
During a Rose Garden joint news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a reporter asked Obama, “Do you still have full confidence in your attorney general?”
“I have complete confidence in Eric Holder as attorney general,” Obama said. “He’s an outstanding attorney general and he does his job with integrity. I expect he will continue to do so.”
The AP phone records scandal is only the most recent controversy surrounding the attorney general.
Last year, 17 House Democrats joined the Republican majority in a bipartisan vote to find Holder in contempt of Congress for refusal to provide documents to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigating the botched gun walking program, Operation Fast and Furious.
Holder had a tough time defending himself in front of the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday, as even Democrat Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) criticized the AP case as an attack on the First Amendment.
Holder attacked Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a member of the Judiciary Committee and chairman of the oversight committee after Issa said Holder has a record of keeping information from Congress.
“No, that's what you typically do,” Holder told Issa. “That is inappropriate and is too consistent with the way in which you conduct yourself as a member of Congress. It's unacceptable, and it's shameful.”
In response to the question, Obama also talked about the administration’s support for a media shield law to prevent reporters from being forced to name their sources.
“With respect to the Department of Justice, I’m not going to comment on a specific pending case, but I can talk broadly about the balance that we to strike,” Obama said.
He said that “leaks related to national security can put people at risk,” adding that 60,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, and American intelligence agents are spread across the globe.
“The flip side of it is we also live in a democracy where a free press, free expression and open flow of information helps hold me accountable, helps hold our government accountable, helps hold me accountable, helps hold our government accountable and helps our democracy function,” Obama said.
“The whole goal of a media shield law, endorsed by The Washington Post editorial page and by prosecutors was finding a way to strike that balance appropriately,” Obama said. “To the extent that this case, which we still don’t know all the details of, to the extent that this case has prompted renewed interest about how do we strike that balance properly, I think now is the time for us to go ahead and revisit that legislation.”
Regarding the same reporter’s question about comparisons between his administration and that of President Richard Nixon, who resigned in 1974 in the middle of the Watergate scandal, Obama said, “I’ll let you guys engage in those comparisons. You can read the history and draw your own conclusions.”