The Justice Department's hearts and minds campaign to the media just hit a snag: The Associated Press and the New York Times have refused to attend a meeting with Eric Holder on law enforcement and the first amendment, because the department wants the session to be off the record. Given that the AP and the New York Times were both recently the subjects of DOJ leaks investigations that involved subpoenas for communication records of journalists, it's kind of hard to blame them.
News broke on the specifics of the planned meetings earlier today, which were also referenced in Obama's big national security speech last week. Apparently the DOJ reached out to the Washington bureau chiefs of several major news outlets, inviting them to a meeting with Holder on the current rules governing federal leaks investigations. But the department wants to keep the newsworthy meeting off the record. This evening, Jill Abramson at the New York Times gave her response to the invite, via Politico:
“We will not be attending the session at DOJ. It isn’t appropriate for us to attend an off the record meeting with the attorney general. Our Washington bureau is aggressively covering the department’s handling of leak investigations at this time...Evidently, there will be a future session with department officials on the substance of how the law should be applied in leak cases and I am hopeful that our counsel, David McCraw will be able to participate in that meeting."
And the Associated Press soon followed suit, also via Politico:
"We believe the meeting should be on the record and we have said that to the Attorney General’s office. If it is on the record, AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll will attend. If it is not on the record, AP will not attend and instead will offer our views on how the regulations should be updated in an open letter. We would expect AP attorneys to be included in any planned meetings between the Attorney General’s office and media lawyers on the legal specifics."
According to the Huffington Post's Michael Calderone, HuffPo is also out of the meeting if it's off the record, while the Washington Post is in:
Politico will attend, too, because of course they will:
Politico will attend the DOJ meeting, along with WaPo. (NYT, AP, HuffPost all declining at this point) politi.co/1768Xxf— HuffPost Media (@HuffPostMedia) May 30, 2013
Now, it's time to wait and see what the other invited bureau chiefs will do. Or, if Holder and co. will decide to put the meeting on the record after all.