US Justice Dept. says it will no longer seize reporters' records in leak investigations

FILE PHOTO: The crest of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is seen at their headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 10, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: The crest of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is seen at their headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 10, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo (Reuters)


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WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The Department of Justice said on Saturday that it would no longer seek source information from reporters in leak investigations after recent revelations that former President Donald Trump's administration had secretly obtained phone and email records from a number of journalists.

CNN and the Washington Post have said the Trump administration had secretly tried to obtain the phone records of some of their reporters over work they did in 2017.

The New York Times reported that the Justice Department under presidents Trump and Joe Biden waged "a secret legal battle to obtain the email logs of four New York Times reporters," and imposed a gag order on executives.

Last month, Biden said he would not allow his Justice Department to seize the phone or email records of reporters, saying any such move would be "simply wrong."

"DOJ has now completed a review to determine all instances in which the Department had pending compulsory requests from reporters in leak investigations," Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said in a statement.

"Going forward, consistent with the President's direction, this Department of Justice — in a change to its longstanding practice — will not seek compulsory legal process in leak investigations to obtain source information from members of the news media doing their jobs," Coley added.

In a statement, the White House said that issuing subpoenas for reporters' records in leak investigations is not consistent with Biden administration policy.

"The Department of Justice has reconfirmed it will not be used moving forward," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Trump had a contentious relationship with the press, often publicly lambasting reporters and their outlets as "fake news."

(Reporting by Idrees AliEditing by Bill Berkrot and Sonya Hepinstall)

© Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021

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