The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the Justice Department under former President Trump quietly seized phone records from four of its reporters in 2017.
The Department of Justice (DOJ), now under President Biden, told the newspaper that officials seized records from Jan. 14 to April 30, 2017, from reporters Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eric Lichtblau and Michael S. Schmidt. The DOJ also got a court order to seize logs of their emails, but “no records were obtained.”
The Justice Department didn’t tell the Times what article was being investigated. But the newspaper speculated that the Justice Department was looking into an article the reporters wrote about how former FBI Director James Comey handled investigations during the 2016 presidential election.
The article, published April 22, 2017, was about Comey’s decision to announce in July 2016 that the FBI was making a recommendation to not charge former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in connection with an investigation into her use of a private email server for official business.
The Times noted that the story mentioned a classified document that the newspaper obtained, which was a memo from a Democratic operative expressing confidence that then- Attorney General Loretta Lynch could keep the investigation in check.
The Times’s executive editor, Dean Baquet, told the newspaper that seizing reporters’ phone records “profoundly undermines press freedom.”
“It threatens to silence the sources we depend on to provide the public with essential information about what the government is doing,” Baquet said.
The Times is the latest to reveal that the Justice Department had sought records from reporters as part of investigations into leaks during the Trump administration.
The Washington Post was the first to reveal in early May that Trump’s DOJ sought phone phone records from several of its reporters from the time period of April 15 to July 31, 2017.
CNN later reported that the DOJ secretly obtained phone and email records from its Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr from June 1 to July 31, 2017.
After CNN’s disclosure, President Biden said it was “absolutely, positively” wrong to seize reporters’ communications, and vowed that his administration never do so.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to end the practice last month.
Via The Hill