US Justice Dept gagged NYT execs in attempt to seize reporters' emails

Ruben Fields
June 6, 2021

"Members of the news media have now been notified in every instance" where their records were sought in 2019 and 2020 in leak investigations, Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said Wednesday.

The two newspapers whose reporters' phone records had been secretly obtained also said more needed to be done.

You may remember that last month, reports revealed that the Trump Justice Department seized the phone records of journalists from the Washington Pot and CNN.

He added: "The department strongly values a free press, protecting First Amendment values, and is committed to taking all appropriate steps to ensure the independence of journalists".

The Washington Post disclosed last month that the Justice Department had past year obtained phone records belonging to three of its journalists who covered the investigation into 2016 Russian election interference and CNN later revealed that the department had seized phone records of its Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

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.

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.

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Shortly after the Justice Department released its statement, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that "given the independence of the Justice Department in specific criminal cases, no one at the White House was aware of the gag order until Friday night".

The Times was not informed of the attempt by the Trump administration, according to the report.

'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 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.

Even so, it marked a startling reversal concerning a practice that has persisted across multiple presidential administrations.

Following the disclosure Wednesday, Times reporter Adam Goldman tweeted that the Justice Department had "now secretly seized my phone records twice", under both Obama and Trump.

The subpoena was issued in April but came to light this past week when USA Today and its parent company Gannett filed documents in federal court asking a judge to quash it.

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