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

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

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

The Justice Department said Saturday that it no longer will secretly obtain reporters' records during leak investigations, a policy shift that abandons a practice decried by news organizations and press freedom groups.

The Justice Department started investigating Comey after former President Donald Trump fired him, first focusing on whether his leaked notes on Trump's conversations with him about Russian Federation were illegal, then shifting to whether Comey leaked the existence of the classified 2016 memo.

The disclosure is just the latest from the Biden administration, which revealed in early May that the Trump administration's Justice Department quietly accessed the 2017 phone records of three reporters from The Washington Post, and also tried to get their email records.

The Trump Justice Department secretly obtained the phone records of four New York Times reporters as part of a leak investigation, the newspaper reported Wednesday.

But the department preserved its prerogative to seize journalists' records, and the recent disclosures to the news media organizations show that the practice continued in the Trump-era Justice Department as part of multiple investigations.

The journalists are neither the subjects nor the targets of the investigation, Coley said. The Justice Department did not indicate which of their articles was being scrutinized, but The Times said the reporters and timing suggested it was an April 2017 report about FBI Director James Comey's handling of politically sensitive investigations during the 2016 election.

'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 tactic was used by Democratic and Republican administrations alike in an effort to identify sources who revealed classified information to journalists. The Obama Justice Department, under then-Attorney General Eric Holder, alerted The Associated Press in 2013 that it had secretly obtained two months of phone records of reporters and editors in what the news cooperative's top executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into newsgathering activities.

In addition to the phone records seizures disclosed over the past month regarding the reporters, the department won guilty pleas from a former government contractor who mailed a classified report to a news organization and a former Senate committee aide who admitted lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his contacts with a reporter.

The Justice Department under former Attorney General Eric Holder announced revised guidelines for leak investigations, requiring additional levels of review before a journalist could be subpoenaed - though it did not end the practice.