Sessions says he’s ‘not sure’ if he would prosecute journalists as AG

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Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), said during a confirmation hearing Tuesday said he’s “not sure” if he would prosecute journalists in the course of probing government leaks. 
“If confirmed, will you commit to following the standards already in place at the Justice Department and will you make that commitment not to put reporters in jail for doing their jobs?” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) asked Sessions. 

“I’m not sure,” Sessions replied. “I have not studied those regulations.”

{mosads}Sessions added that there is a high bar for subpoenaing journalists, noting that consent was needed from senior levels at the Justice Department.

“I do believe the Department of Justice does have sensitivity to this issue,” he said. “There have been a few examples of where the press and the Department of Justice haven’t agreed on these issues. 

“But for the most part, there is a broadly recognized and proper deference to the news media.”

Sessions also raised the possibility that the press could act as a “mechanism through which unlawful intelligence is obtained.”

“But you could have a situation in which a media is not really the unbiased media we see today, and they could be a mechanism through which unlawful intelligence is obtained,” Sessions explained. 

Sessions opposed the Free Flow of Information Act in 2013. 

According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the legislation aimed to protect  “journalists’ confidential sources and encourage the dissemination of information to the public from sources who could hold the government accountable.”

“This would be the first privilege I’m aware of that the virtually exclusive purpose of it is to protect people who violated the law,” Session stated in September of 2013. 

“Many news organizations that will be covered under this law represent ideologies, foreign interests directly contrary to the United States’ national security interests,” Sessions said. 

“This legislation, in effect, says we’re going to create legal mechanisms to protect anyone who calls himself a newsperson, and the leaker basically is the one being protected from identification and prosecution for the plain violation of the duly enacted classifications laws of the United States of America.”
The Obama Justice Department prosecuted several government employees for leaking classified material to reporters. During these investigations, reporters were also subpoenaed to testify about confidential sources. 
Journalists who were not willing to testify were told they could serve jail time. No journalist was actually jailed, however. 

Sessions’s confirmation hearing continues on Wednesday. 

Tags Amy Klobuchar Confirmation hearings Donald Trump Jeff Sessions
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