Trump's Justice Department seized phone records of four New York Times reporters


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. Officials had a court order to seize the group's email logs sans contents as well, but no records were obtained, according to the Times. But the practice had received renewed scrutiny over the past month as Justice Department officials had alerted reporters at three news organizations - The Washington Post, CNN and The New York Times - that their phone records had been obtained in the final year of the Trump administration.

The statement did not say whether the Justice Department would still conduct aggressive leak investigations without obtaining reporters' records. Lichtblau has since left the newspaper.

"DOJ has now completed a review to determine all instances in which the Department had pending compulsory requests from reporters in leak investigations", Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said in a statement.

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

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.

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

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. 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 tactic was used by Democratic and Republican administrations alike in an effort to identify sources who revealed classified information to journalists. "Clearly, Google did the right thing, but it should never have come to this", New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet told the newspaper, which reported that the gag order prevented executives from telling him about the issue.

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.