Trump DoJ Secretly Obtained NYT Reporters' Records

Cheryl Sanders
June 5, 2021

The Trump administration's Department of Justice covertly obtained the phone records of four New York Times reporters, the Biden administration told the paper on 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 Biden administration disclosed to the newspaper that the Trump administration's Justice Department had seized almost four months of phone records in 2017 from reporters Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eric Lichtblau and Michael Schmidt.

The legal battle to gain access to the email logs of four of the journalists started in the last weeks of Trump's presidency and sought to reveal reporters' sources, the Times said.

"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.

In ruling out "compulsory legal process" for reporters in leak investigations, the department also appeared to say that it would not force journalists to reveal in court the identity of their sources.

The Justice Department did not disclose which article it was investigating, according to the newspaper.

CNN and the Washington Post previously reported that the Trump administration had secretly tried to obtain the phone records of some of their reporters over work they did in 2017.

But the period covered by the phone record seizure encompasses an April 2017 story from the four journalists that described the decision-making of then-FBI Director James Comey during the conclusion of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, and that referenced a classified document obtained by Russian hackers. "It threatens to silence the sources we depend on to provide the public with essential information about what the government is doing".

Jeff Sessions, who served as Trump's first attorney general, announced in 2017 an aggressive government crackdown on leaks. But the same intrusive tactics of the last four years were also employed during the Obama administration, which secretly seized phone records of Associated Press reporters and editors during a leak investigation in 2013 and also labeled a Fox News reporter a co-conspirator in a separate leak probe.

After blowback, Holder announced a revised set of guidelines for leak investigations, including requiring the authorization of the highest levels of the department before subpoenas for news media records could be issued.

Other reports by iNewsToday