The Department of Justice was caught red-faced with its hands in the cookie jar Friday when Brian Fallon, Attorney General Eric Holder’s top spokesman, requested that a congressional staffer “leak” some documents to the press so that they could be spun. The problem was, Fallon called a Republican House leader’s office by mistake.
Fallon, who heads the Justice Department’s Office of Public Affairs, called House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) office. It’s pretty apparent he thought he’d dialed Issa’s Democratic counterpart, Rep. Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), due to the nature of his request, according to The Hill.
He wanted information about the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups scandal to be leaked to friendly reporters so that administration officials could comment on them “before the majority” did.
The Hill reported:
After Issa spokesman Frederick Hill replied that Oversight Committee staffers would have to examine those documents first, the line went silent, and Fallon placed the call on hold for three minutes.
When he returned to the line, Fallon was “audibly shaken,” according to an account of the conversation that Issa recounts in a letter sent to Holder.
The Justice official then said there had been a “change in plans,” that no documents would be released on Friday and that the main reason for the call was to seek a thaw in relations between the department and Oversight Republicans.
Issa said Fallon’s call was clearly meant for Democratic staff and provides proof of an ongoing collaboration between Obama administration officials and Cummings to “prejudice the committee’s work through under-the-table coordination.”
“This highly partisan and combative approach to oversight by the department shows a disregard for the independent investigatory prerogatives of Congress and a deliberate attempt to influence the course of a congressional investigation,” Issa wrote to Holder in his letter dated Monday.
Although Issa didn’t identify the caller by name in his letter, Fallon acknowledged Tuesday that it was he who made the call, but claimed to The Hill it was all aboveboard.
“There is nothing inappropriate about department staff having conversations with both the majority and minority staff as it prepares responses to formal inquiries,” Fallon said. “That includes conversations between the spokespeople for the department and the committee.”
However, as Issa indicated in his letter, it’s “unseemly” when the DOJ apparently shares information with one party over the other.
And what are the select outlets to which the Justice Department wanted the information leaked? Fallon made it pretty clear that he favors The Washington Post and The Huffington Post.
He got called out by CNN’s Jake Tapper last month for referring to their reporters as “gutsy.”
.@brianefallon how do you distinguish between the “gutsy” reporters and the one the administration is threatening to put in jail?
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) August 14, 2014
I’m shocked. Not Fox News?