TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Sen. Pat Roberts said Thursday that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder should resign over allegations that he knew of the gathering of journalists’ telephone records and emails.
The Kansas Republican told The Associated Press by telephone that the resignation would be in the best interests of Holder and President Barack Obama.
“I think he would certainly be doing himself and the president a favor,” Roberts said.
The Justice Department has been intensely criticized over its secret gathering of the phone records of AP reporters and the emails of a Fox News journalist. Holder has testified that he had no knowledge that the records were sought after journalists reported on government activities.
Requests seeking comment from the Justice Department about Roberts’ comments weren’t immediately returned Thursday.
Roberts, who is a former newspaper reporter in southwest Kansas and Arizona, said Holder’s resignation would be appropriate but would not make questions of First Amendment violations go away.
The senator said it made no sense for the administration to push for a national shield law for journalists, adding that any law would likely have an exemption for national security purposes that still would leave journalists vulnerable.
“We don’t need a shield law. We already have one. It’s called the First Amendment,” Roberts said.
The senator said Holder and other Justice Department officials should try to work with journalists when news breaks about government activities. Roberts said instead of seeking phone records or emails the government should bring journalists up to speed about ongoing investigations or activities.
“This is like East Germany. This is not the appropriate action,” Roberts said.
Holder is seeking to hold meetings with news organizations about guidelines governing regulations that involve reporters. The Associated Press and other organizations have objected to the Justice Department’s desire to have the meetings be off the record.
Obama has asked Holder to report him on any recommend policy changes by July 12.
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