Schumer: New ‘Gang of Eight’ to draft rules for press subpoenas

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday proposed a new bipartisan “Gang of Eight” to draft a bill to create guidelines for future investigations of media leaks by the government.

“I proposed along with [Sen.] Lindsey Graham [R-S.C.], we’ll be announcing that we have four Democrats, four Republicans, another Gang of Eight,” said Schumer on CBS’s Face the Nation. “I love these gangs of eight I guess.”

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Schumer said the bipartisan group will “introduce “legislation that sets up rules where… if the government wants to go to a member of the press and say you have to divulge your sources and certain information, they first have to go to a judge, and that judge will impose a balancing test [and say] ‘which is more important? The government desire to… find out who leaked the information or the robust freedom of the press.’”

The announcement comes as the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been under fire for searching a Fox News reporter’s phone calls and private emails to trace the source of a leak in the State Department. In a separate leak probe, the DOJ secretly seized months of phone records from Associated Press employees. 

Schumer said the recent DOJ controversies highlighted the need to have rules in place for future leak investigations.

“If we can set up these rules, I think we’ll avoid the morass,” he said. “You always need set rules and an independent arbiter. You have neither now.”

Schumer said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) assured him that the bill would be brought to the floor of the upper chamber quickly for a vote. 

Earlier this month, in response to criticism over the DOJ, the White House asked Schumer to reintroduce a media shield law.

That bill would allow media groups to challenge subpoenas of phone records and offer additional protections for confidential sources.