Trump, Biden admins secretly sought email logs for NY Times reporters: lawyer

The Justice Department during the waning days of the Trump administration and into the Biden administration sought to obtain email logs of four New York Times reporters as the department tried to identify their sources.

A lawyer for the journalists told the paper that the Biden administration informed top executives at the Times about the inquiry but imposed a gag order on them to prevent the probe from becoming public.

David McCraw, the attorney, said Friday that a federal court had lifted the gag order regarding the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) ultimately failed investigation to obtain the email logs from Google, which hosts the newspaper’s email system.

“Clearly, Google did the right thing, but it should never have come to this,” said Dean Baquet, the Times’s executive editor. “The Justice Department relentlessly pursued the identity of sources for coverage that was clearly in the public interest in the final 15 days of the Trump administration. And the Biden administration continued to pursue it. As I said before, it profoundly undermines press freedom.”

The revelation came just days after the paper disclosed that the Justice Department under former President Trump quietly seized phone records from 2017 from four of its reporters. Similar seizures for records from reporters for The Washington Post and CNN have also surfaced. 

The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill, but told the Times that the Biden administration “voluntarily moved to withdraw the order before any records were produced” and “strongly values a free and independent press, and is committed to upholding the First Amendment.” 

The White House added in a statement Saturday morning that it was unaware of the gag order until the previous day and that efforts to obtain logs from reporters are “not consistent” with President Biden’s agenda.

“As appropriate given the independence of the Justice Department in specific criminal cases, no one at the White House was aware of the gag order until Friday night. While the White House does not intervene in criminal investigations, the issuing of subpoenas for the records of reporters in leak investigations is not consistent with the President’s policy direction to the Department, and the Department of Justice has reconfirmed it will not be used moving forward,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Biden said last month that he would not allow the Justice Department under his administration to seize logs of reporters’ communications after reports first started to surface that such inquiries had been opened under the Trump administration. 

“This president is committed, strongly, to the rights of the freedom of press, as you have seen for decades, and to standing up for the rights of journalists,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in May.

Tags Donald Trump Jen Psaki Joe Biden

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