The Trump administration secretly seized the phone records of four New York Times reporters, the newspaper wrote Wednesday.
Why it matters: The disclosure comes less than a month after it was revealed that the Department of Justice under former President Trump obtained the communication records of three Washington Post journalists and one CNN reporter.
The big picture: The Justice Department told the Times that authorities in 2020 seized the four NYT journalists' phone records from Jan. 14 to April 30, 2017 as part of a leak investigation.
- It added that the department had secured a court order to seize the logs of the journalists' emails, but "no records were obtained."
- The Justice Department did not say which article was being investigated, the Times noted.
- "But the lineup of reporters and the timing suggested that the leak investigation related to classified information reported in an April 22, 2017, article the four reporters wrote about how James B. Comey, then the F.B.I. director, handled politically charged investigations during the 2016 presidential election," the Times wrote Wednesday.
- The Justice Department said that all “members of the news media have now been notified in every instance," of leak investigations between 2019-2020 that records were obtained, per NYT.
What they're saying: “Seizing the phone records of journalists profoundly undermines press freedom,” Times executive editor Dean Baquet said in a statement, according to the newspaper.
- “It threatens to silence the sources we depend on to provide the public with essential information about what the government is doing,” he added.
- "We expect the Department of Justice to explain why this action was taken and what steps are being taken to make certain it does not happen again in the future.”
President Biden last month said he would not allow the Justice Department to seize journalists’ email or phone records, calling the practice "simply, simply wrong."