Democrats, activists blast Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records

Democrats and free press advocates blasted a new report showing that the Department of Justice (DOJ) under former President Trump obtained phone records of Washington Post reporters and attempted to access their email records. 

The broadsides came after The Washington Post revealed that the DOJ during the Trump administration tried to get the information of reporters Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller, who still work for the paper, and Adam Entous, who previously reported for it, over their reporting into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. 

"This is a direct attack on the First Amendment by the Trump Justice Department. Anyone who was involved in this authoritarian style intimidation and is still at @TheJusticeDept, should be fired. And history really, really is not going to be kind to Bill Barr," Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) tweeted, referencing former Attorney General William Barr.

"The Justice Department shouldn't go spying on journalists at the whims of an administration. This should never have happened. When the government spies on journalists and their sources, it jeopardizes freedom of the press," the American Civil Liberties Union added. 

The Post also panned the letters, with Cameron Barr, the paper's acting executive editor, saying "The Department of Justice should immediately make clear its reasons for this intrusion into the activities of reporters doing their jobs, an activity protected under the First Amendment."

The DOJ informed the reporters that it had received toll records associated with the following telephone numbers for the period from April 15, 2017 to July 31, 2017, and sought "non content communication records" for reporters' work email accounts but that the department never got the information. 

The letters sent to the reporters did not specify when the information was obtained, but the DOJ told the Post that the effort was started in 2020. Barr, who served as attorney general for all of 2020 until Dec. 23, would have had to greenlight the effort to seek the reporters' information.

"Way beyond Nixon at his worst: Trump Justice Department secretly obtained Post reporters' phone records!" tweeted John Dean, a former White House counsel for Richard Nixon.