WASHINGTON — Attorney Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. recused himself from the leak investigation in which federal prosecutors seized records from 20 telephone lines used by reporters and editors at the Associated Press, and the matter is instead being coordinated by the FBI and the local U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, a top Justice Department official said.
In his absence, the investigation is being supervised by Deputy Atty. Gen. James Cole, “who has served as the acting attorney general overseeing this investigation,” the official said.
Holder made the decision to recuse himself after he was interviewed by the FBI in connection with the investigation. Federal authorities are trying to determine which government official tipped off the AP about a terrorist investigation involving an Al Qaeda plan to detonate a bomb aboard a U.S.-bound airplane in revenge for the death of leader Osama bin Laden.
Holder’s decision was made shortly after he appointed U.S. Atty. Ronald C. Machen Jr. to investigate the leak last June.
“The decision to seek media [telephone] toll records in this investigation was made by the deputy attorney general consistent with department regulations and policies,” the official said, speaking on background.
Holder, scheduled to speak Tuesday at a news conference announcing some new healthcare fraud cases, is expected to provide more information about the situation.