Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Attorney General Michael Mukasey sparred over the proposed federal shield law Wednesday during Mukasey’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.
Pence, responding to Mukasey’s comment that the shield bill represents a “solution in search of a problem,” instead categorized the proposal as a “response to a rising erosion of our First Amendment freedom of the press.”
To support his view, Pence, who sponsored a version of the shield law that the House of Representatives passed 398 to 21 in October, pointed out Mukasey’s fuzzy math in downplaying the widespread use of subpoenas in federal courts. Mukasey has repeatedly noted that the Justice Department only issued 19 source-related subpoenas on the media.
Pence said Mukasey’s numbers do not account for subpoenas issued by civil litigants or special prosecutors. Since 2001, Pence reported, at least 19 additional journalists have been subpoenaed by both federal and special prosecutors.
Mukasey, who as a federal judge sitting in the Southern District of New York quashed a subpoena seeking unedited outtakes of a news media’s interview with a defendant in a civil case, also rebuffed Pence’s offer to work with lawmakers in crafting language that would better satisfy the Justice Department.
“What I’m not willing to do is to take steps that will essentially do more to protect leakers than it does to protect journalists,” Mukasey said.