Trump Justice Dept. seized phone records of 4 New York Times reporters

Biden's pledge on media freedom may be easier said than done

"While the White House does not intervene in criminal investigations, the issuing of subpoenas for the records of reporters in leak investigations is not consistent with the President's policy direction to the Department, and the Department of Justice has reconfirmed it will not be used moving forward", she said. The Biden administration informed a handful of Times executives about the battle, but imposed a since-lifted gag order that prevented the executives from disclosing the efforts even to the executive editor, Dean Baquet.

Later in May, the Justice Department revealed the previous administration had also secretly obtained phone and email records from 2017 of CNN's pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. After the most recent revelation - that the Justice Department in the Trump administration had secretly seized the phone records of four New York Times reporters - White House press secretary Jen Psaki reaffirmed the commitment to freedom of the press.

'It threatens to silence the sources we depend on to provide the public with essential information about what the government is doing, ' Baquet said.

"I don't see that he's directing any specific case or that he's directing that an investigation take one path or another", Weinstein said.

The Justice Department told the Times it obtained the phone records of four reporters - Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eric Lichtblau, and Michael S. Schmidt - from January 14 to April 30, 2017. That tussle had begun during the Trump administration but had persisted under the Biden Justice Department, which ultimately moved to withdraw the gag order.

The records, which were from a four-month period in 2017, were seized in 2020 during an investigation into a leak, The Times reported.

Psaki had previously said that DOJ would use the "Holder model" when investigating leaks to journalists - referring to Obama-era Attorney General Eric Holder.

The four reporters shared a byline on an April 2017 story that detailed the FBI's decision-making in the final stages of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. The Biden administration has already informed CNN and The Washington Post that the phone records and email logs of its reporters were secretly obtained past year, a practice that President Biden said is "simply, simply wrong" and will not happen under his administration.

Now there's new reporting phone records of four New York Times reporters were seized as well.

Jeff Sessions, who served as Trump's first attorney general, announced in 2017 an aggressive government crackdown on leaks.

Holder's DOJ had changed guidelines for obtaining records during criminal leak probes, and added additional hurdles, but had not ended the practice.



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