NYT publisher: DOJ phone records seizure a 'dangerous incursion' on press freedom

NYT publisher: DOJ phone records seizure a 'dangerous incursion' on press freedom
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New York Times publisher and Chairman A.G. Sulzberger criticized the Trump Justice Department’s seizure of Times reporters' phone records in a memo to the paper’s staff Friday.

“They represent a dangerous incursion into press freedom in this country,” Sulzberger wrote.

On Wednesday, the Times reported that current Department of Justice (DOJ) officials notified the paper that past DOJ investigators had seized records from 2017 of calls made by reporters Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eric Lichtblau and Michael S. Schmidt.

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“We have asked the Department of Justice to explain why this action was taken and what the department is doing to make certain that it does not happen again,” Sulzberger wrote.

Although the Justice Department didn’t say which Times article was being investigated, the newspaper suggested it was a story reporting on former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyBiden sister has book deal, set to publish in April Mystery surrounds Justice's pledge on journalist records NYT publisher: DOJ phone records seizure a 'dangerous incursion' on press freedom MORE’s management of investigations during the 2016 presidential election.

The seizures have contributed to an “increasingly difficult climate for journalists around the world,” Sulzberger said in his memo, citing cases in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe where Times journalists have been arrested or deported for doing their jobs.

“We want you to know that The Times’s newsroom, legal and security teams are working around the clock to support our journalists and freelancers in all of these cases, and many more around the country and the world,” Sulzberger said.

“Our company leadership will also continue to push officials in the United States and around the world to uphold and protect press freedom,” he added.

DOJ spokesperson Anthony Coley told The Hill the Trump DOJ obtained the phone records "as part of a criminal investigation into the unauthorized disclosure of classified information" but that "the journalists were neither subjects nor targets of the investigation."

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Last month, The Washington Post also revealed that Trump’s DOJ sought 2017 phone records of its reporters.

Not long after, CNN also reported that the DOJ secretly obtained Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr’s phone and email records from 2017.

In the wake of the CNN announcement, President BidenJoe BidenGOP report on COVID-19 origins homes in on lab leak theory READ: The .2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session MORE said the practice of seizing reporters' phone records was “absolutely, positively” wrong and said it's something his administration would never do.