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Holder Says He Won't Step Down, Has 'Great Respect' for Journalists

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By Paul Scicchitano   |   Wednesday, 05 Jun 2013 07:19 PM

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told NBC News on Wednesday that he has no plans to resign for the time being and insisted that he has "great respect" for the news media despite signing off on requests by his Justice Department to examine the phone and email records of journalists.

"There's some things that I want to do, some things that I want to get done that I’ve discussed with the president, and once I have finished that I'll sit down with him and we’ll determine when it’s time to make a transition to a new attorney general," Holder told NBC's Pete Williams in an exclusive interview.

"But to be clear, you’re not stepping down now?" Williams pressed.

"No, I have no intention of doing so now," Holder replied.

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A number of prominent Republican lawmakers have called for Holder’s resignation in recent weeks and some White House advisers have expressed frustration over Holder's apparent inability to have foreseen problems arising from his approval of a subpoena naming Fox News’ James Rosen as a possible co-conspirator in an espionage investigation.

Holder has become a lightning rod for criticism over the Justice Department's decision to subpoena the phone records of 100 Associated Press reporters and editors in another polarizing leak investigation.

The top lawman in the U.S. said the aggressive crackdown on leaks was not the result of a policy decision, but rather demands from the intelligence community and Congress.

"I'm a little concerned that things have gotten a little out of whack," he said. "I think we can do a better job than we have. We can reform those regulations, reform those guidelines to better reflect that balance."

The Justice Department obtained Rosen's phone and email records to investigate the leak of sensitive intelligence about North Korea, describing the journalist as an aider, abettor, or co-conspirator at the very least — a phrase that Holder maintains was needed to obtain the search warrant.

"I don't like that because it means that me as a government official, who has great respect for the press, is in essence saying that a reporter who is doing his or her job — and doing that very important job — is somehow branded a criminal, and I’m just not comfortable with that. We’re going to change that."

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Williams said another possible change would be to give the news media a chance to fight a request for records in court before they are turned over.

"We'll come up with ways in which notification can be given to the media, and possibly involve on a more consistent basis, judges as third-party arbiters," Holder said.

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