White House asks Schumer to reintroduce media shield law

The White House on Wednesday asked Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Trump backs plan to give airlines another billion in aid MORE (D-N.Y.) to reintroduce a media shield law amid criticism of the Department of Justice’s subpoena of Associated Press phone records.

Schumer’s bill would allow media organizations to challenge subpoenas of phone records and offer legal protections for protecting confidential sources.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said President Obama “has long supported” such legislation.

“The White House has been in contact with Sen. Schumer and we are glad to see that legislation will be reintroduced because he believes strongly we need to provide protections to the media,” Carney said.

Obama and the Department of Justice have come under criticism for Justice’s decision to investigate national security leaks by subpoenaing more than 20 work and personal phone lines belonging to reporters from the AP.

Carney on Tuesday said Obama only learned of Justice’s actions through media reports. He avoided direct statements on the probe, saying it was an ongoing criminal investigation, even as he defended Obama’s record on a free press.

The AP believes the records seizure was related to investigation of leaked information about the CIA foiling a bomb plot in Yemen. The Obama administration has aggressively investigated the disclosure of classified anti-terror information in recent years, subpoenaing journalists from The New York Times and The Washington Post.

News of the AP subpoenas came as the White House was already dealing with controversies surrounding its response to and handling of the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, and the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups for audits.

Schumer introduced a similar bill in 2009, but it stalled in the Senate amid the controversy over WikiLeaks, a website that disclosed thousands of secret government documents related to the war on terror. A spokesman for the New York lawmaker said Wednesday that Schumer would reintroduce the language that was approved in a 15-4 bipartisan committee vote that year.

“This kind of law would balance national security needs against the public’s right to the free flow of information," Schumer said in a statement obtained by The New York Times. “At minimum, our bill would have ensured a fairer, more deliberate process in this case.”

Asked if the president's renewed push for the media shield bill was a response to the AP subpoena, Carney emphasized that the White House was not involved in the Justice Department investigation. But, Carney said, the president “thinks it's an appropriate time” to push again for the shield law.

“The president's support for this kind of media shield law is well documented and long standing, and he does think it is important to resubmit it,” Carney said.