Oversight panel may hold hearing on DOJ reporter surveillance

Oversight panel may hold hearing on DOJ reporter surveillance
© Greg Nash

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee may hold a hearing on the Justice Department’s surveillance of a New York Times reporter as part of a leak investigation, a senior member of the panel said Friday.

Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanRepublicans and Democrats alike face troubling signals from voters Ex-OSU wrestler walks back accusations against Jordan: I don’t know if he 'directly' knew about abuse GOP chairman readies Steele dossier subpoenas MORE (R-Ohio) said he was “very nervous” to learn about the extent of the Department of Justice’s decision to collect and scrutinize years’ worth of the reporter’s email and phone records.

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“When it comes to protecting our First Amendment liberties, our Fourth Amendment rights, the right to a free press, the right to free speech, the right to practice your faith the way you want to, the Second Amendment rights that we enjoy, the right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment, I am as as strong as they get on these issues,” Jordan, a former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said during an appearance on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” that’s set to air Friday night.

“So I am very nervous about the government doing what you just described,” he added. “Just like I was nervous and upset about the government, particularly the IRS, when they targeted people for their political beliefs, just like I’m fired up about what the FBI did in the Trump-Russia investigation.”

Jordan, who chairs an Oversight panel subcommittee, authored a press-shield bill with liberal Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinDems seek probe into EPA head’s meetings with former clients Hillicon Valley: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | Sparks fly at hearing on social media | First House Republican backs net neutrality bill | Meet the DNC's cyber guru | Sinclair defiant after merger setback Sparks fly at hearing on anti-conservative bias in tech MORE (D-Md.), a constitutional law professor. The Free Flow of Information Act would protect journalists from being forced by the government to reveal confidential sources.

The bipartisan bill was introduced last fall after Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsHouston restaurant shuts down social media after Sessions photo backlash ACLU’s lawsuit may force Trump to stop granting asylum applications US judge rejects Russian company’s bid to dismiss Mueller charges MORE vowed to pursue an aggressive prosecutorial approach to journalists, including throwing them in jail for publishing classified leaks.

On Thursday night, The New York Times reported that the Justice Department had seized years’ worth of phone and email records from one of the newspaper’s reporters, Ali Watkins, going back to her college years, as part of its probe into who had leaked sensitive information to her.

Federal law enforcement officials on Thursday arrested a former longtime Senate Intelligence Committee staffer, James Wolfe, and charged him with making false statements to the FBI about giving journalists non-public information related to his panel’s work.

In February, FBI agents approached Watkins about her previous three-year romantic relationship with Wolfe, the Times said.

Watkins has denied using Wolfe as a source.

“We should be concerned about protecting our Constitution, protecting our fundamental liberties, our fundamental rights that we enjoy under the bill of rights and that great document, the United States Constitution,” Jordan said.

Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyHillicon Valley: FBI fires Strzok after anti-Trump tweets | Trump signs defense bill with cyber war policy | Google under scrutiny over location data | Sinclair's troubles may just be beginning | Tech to ease health data access | Netflix CFO to step down FBI fires Strzok after anti-Trump texts House Intel lawmakers introduce bipartisan election security bill MORE (R-S.C.), chairman of the full Oversight and Government Reform Committee, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But another member of his panel, Rep. Dennis RossDennis Alan RossElection Countdown: Trump jumps into Ohio special election fight | What to watch in Tennessee primaries | Koch network freezes out Republicans who crossed them | Dead heat in Texas, Nevada Senate races | How celebs are getting into the midterms Cook shifts two House GOP seats closer to Dem column Trump, GOP launch full-court press on compromise immigration measure MORE (R-Fla.), said he would support hearings looking into the matter.

“As a lawyer, in any investigation there’s got to be a scope of reason,” Ross told The Hill.

In the C-SPAN interview, Jordan also discussed the state of immigration negotiations and said he was “nervous” about President TrumpDonald John TrumpAl Gore: Trump has had 'less of an impact on environment so far than I feared' Trump claims tapes of him saying the 'n-word' don't exist Trump wanted to require staffers to get permission before writing books: report MORE’s tariffs on aluminum and steel imports. Jordan also said he has been encouraged by support he’s received to run for Speaker of the House following the announced retirement of Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanVulnerable Republicans include several up-and-coming GOP leaders Trump ally suspends reelection campaign Congress should prohibit members from serving on company boards MORE (R-Wis.) but has made no decision yet.  

The interview airs Friday at 10 p.m. on C-SPAN and again on Sunday at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.