CNN's Barbara Starr speaks out on Trump DOJ accessing her emails

CNN’s Pentagon reporter Barbara Starr said the Trump administration was manipulating both her and CNN when its Department of Justice (DOJ) secretly obtained her email records during its investigation into news leaks.

“I am not the subject of an investigation and there is no suggestion of wrongdoing,” Starr said in an op-ed posted to CNN onMonday morning. “But as a CNN journalist, myself and my newsroom clearly were being used as a tool by the Trump Justice Department. All of CNN is in this together. We have each other's back, always.”

On June 9, CNN’s lead attorney David Vigilante told the network that last July the DOJ had asked CNN for thousands of Starr’s email records.


CNN had previously reported that on May 13 the DOJ told Starr that prosecutors gathered her phone and email records from June 1, 2017, to July 31, 2017.

“I am genuinely horrified by what happened,” Starr said about the revelations.

When the DOJ requested Starr’s emails, Vigilante said, he was placed under a gag order and could only talk about the investigation with CNN’s president, attorneys of CNN’s corporate parent and lawyers at an outside firm. As a result, Starr did not know her emails had been accessed.

“I had absolutely no knowledge that there were secret court proceedings against me in 2020 until late May 2021, when CNN's most senior attorney, David Vigilante, was cleared to tell me there was a letter from the Justice Department waiting for me at CNN's Washington bureau,” Starr said in her op-ed.

Starr said that CNN was able to reduce the DOJ’s initial request for 30,000 mails to exclude messages that were clearly unrelated to its investigation.

“All of the material finally given to the Justice Department on a judge's orders involved communications over a two-month period in 2017,” Starr wrote. "But it was not until 2020 that the Justice Department argued they needed to see my 2017 communications. … We do not know why it took years for this to even unfold.”


News of the Trump DOJ seizing reporter’s records initially broke in early May, when The Washington Post revealed the department had gathered phone records of Post reporters and tried to access emails they sent while working on stories about Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.

Then in early June, The New York Times detailed how the DOJ had also accessed its reporter’s phone records.

In the wake of the revelations, President BidenJoe BidenTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Republicans focus tax hike opposition on capital gains change Biden on hecklers: 'This is not a Trump rally. Let 'em holler' MORE has said he would not let the DOJ conduct similar seizures of reporters’ communications.

However, Starr said, reporters will face similar records seizures from future administrations unless the DOJ adopts rules specifically barring them.

“[Biden’s] is a promise of limited relevance,” she wrote. “Unless new protections are codified, this could all happen again to any journalist.”

Representatives from CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times are meeting with U.S. Attorney General Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandHas Trump beaten the system? Biden administration moves to withdraw death penalty requests in seven cases Federal gun trafficking strike forces launched in five cities MORE on Monday to talk about the leak investigations and ask for the adoption of permanent rules preventing similar actions in the future.

In addition to investigating reporters, the agency also subpoenaed Apple for records on accounts of Democratic representatives on the House Intelligence Committee, their aides and family members.