DOJ tells media execs that reporters were not targets of investigations

Attorney General Merrick Garland

Officials from the Department of Justice told media executives from CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post that its journalists were not being targeted when the previous administration seized their phone and email records, according to a readout of the meeting Monday. 

“During the discussion, the department made clear that reporters were never the subject or the target of the recent investigations,” the readout states. 

According to the DOJ, media representatives at the meeting included Bruce Brown, executive director, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; A.G. Sulzberger, chairman and publisher of The New York Times and the Times’ Deputy General Counsel, David McCraw.

Also attending were Washington Post Publisher and CEO Fred Ryan, the paper’s Executive Editor Sally Buzbee and its General Counsel of Labor, Jay Kennedy. CNN sent Sam Feist, senior vice president and Washington Bureau Chief as well as Executive Vice President and General Counsel David Vigilante.

The meeting comes in the wake of revelations that the DOJ under former President Trump had seized phone records and emails from journalists working at the Post, the Times, and CNN.

In an op-ed Monday, one target of the DOJ record gathering campaign, CNN correspondent Barbara Starr, said she was “genuinely horrified by what happened.” Starr said that her personal records outside of work were also obtained.

Though President Biden promised it would not engage in similar tactics, the media outlets went into the meeting to ask for a lasting formal DOJ regulation to dissuade future administrations from using similar methods to seize reporters’ records. 

“What we’re asking the attorney general tomorrow is to try to bind future administrations,” Feist said prior to the meeting with Garland. “Don’t just send a memo. Change policy.”

According to the meeting recap, the DOJ reiterated its promise not to use a “compulsory processes” to obtain information from reporters doing their job. Garland agreed with the media representatives “on the need for strong, durable rules,” according to the meeting readout.

Garland also promised to develop and distribute a memo to DOJ field offices spelling out the current policy and committed to working with the media to translate that policy into formal DOJ regulations. 

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