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In AP Case, Little Evidence DOJ Broke the Law

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Goodlatte believes the DOJ’s seizure of AP phone records is “contrary to the law.”

During his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on May 15, Holder said for the first time that there is no written record of his recusal from the AP investigation, a disclosure that raised eyebrows of at least three members of the panel on both sides of the aisle. In response, Rep. Raúl R. Labrador, R-Idaho, suggested that Holder may have violated a statute requiring the attorney general to explain a recusal decision “in writing.”

“There’s already a statute, 28 USC Section 591, that requires [you] to put in writing your reasons for recusal in certain circumstances,” Labrador said. “Frankly, I’ve read it a couple times. I don’t know if it applies to your situation right now.”

A DOJ spokeswoman, Nanda Chitre, told CQ Roll Call that the statute cited by Labrador does not apply because it has expired, a point confirmed by a House aide. The department regulations that are currently in effect do not require recusals to be made in writing, Chitre added, though Holder said during the House hearing that he would consider changing that policy.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., has pursued a different angle in response to the AP controversy. Nunes is concerned about the revelation that one of the AP phone lines included in the DOJ probe is located in the House press gallery, a line used by reporters who frequently conduct phone interviews with members of Congress. Nunes, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, has suggested that a separation-of-powers issue may be at play because the executive branch may have effectively been spying on lawmakers.

“There’s no question that Justice knows what members of Congress the AP was talking to during the two-month time period,” Nunes told CQ Roll Call in a recent interview.

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