President Obama on Thursday expressed “complete confidence” in embattled Attorney General Eric Holder, making no apologies for the Justice Department secretly seizing reporters’ phone records.
In a press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Obama addressed the simmering controversy for the first time since the Justice Department revealed it had monitored more than 20 personal and work phones used by Associated Press journalists in New York, Washington, Connecticut and on Capitol Hill between April and May of 2012.
Obama did not specifically address the case but framed it as part of the administration’s broader efforts to crack down on the leak of sensitive government information.
“I make no apologies,” the president said of his administration’s actions in the name of national security, including the squashing of government leaks.
As for critics pressing for Holder’s resignation, Obama declared, “I have complete confidence in Eric Holder as attorney general.”
Such language reinforces unprecedented efforts by the White House to control protected information. The Obama administration has prosecuted twice as many whistle blowers as every other president combined.
With the Internal Revenue Service probing tax records of political opposition groups and the Justice Department monitoring journalists’ phones, Obama and his administration have been accused of using tactics unseen since former President Nixon and Watergate.
“I’ll let you guys engage in those comparisons,” Obama told reporters in the Rose Garden at the White House. “You can go ahead and read the history and draw your own conclusions.”
It’s been a rough few days for the president. And even the weather wouldn’t cooperate Thursday — Obama during his remarks was forced to call over a Marine with an umbrella.
At the start of the press conference, which started nearly an hour late, Obama called on Congress to increase funding for diplomatic posts overseas. The White House has been hammered for not doing more to protect the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans died during a terrorist attack on Sept. 11 last year.
The White House yesterday released 100 pages of emails about the formation of their talking points in describing the attacks. The document dump did little to squash GOP criticism of Obama’s narrative about the terrorist strike.
And a day after forcing out acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, Obama insisted he did not know about an inspector general’s report detailing the agency’s targeting of conservative groups until last Friday. However, he did not rule out the possibility that somebody in the White House knew of misconduct by the IRS before White House lawyers were alerted to the activity on April 22.
The president also rejected calls for a special counsel to investigate the IRS.
I’ll let you guys engage in those comparisons. You can go ahead and read the history and draw your own conclusions.”