(CNN)The Trump administration’s Justice Department secretly seized months of phone records from four New York Times reporters as part of a leak investigation, the newspaper reported Wednesday.
The Biden administration disclosed to the newspaper that the Trump administration’s Justice Department had seized nearly four months of phone records in 2017 from reporters Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eric Lichtblau and Michael Schmidt. Officials had a court order to seize the group’s email logs sans contents as well, but no records were obtained, according to the Times.
The newspaper said the timing of the seized records and the reporters involved in the investigation suggest that the leak probe involved an April 22, 2017, Times report about former FBI Director James Comey’s handling of different investigations during the 2016 election.
“Seizing the phone records of journalists profoundly undermines press freedom,” Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, told the newspaper in a statement. “It threatens to silence the sources we depend on to provide the public with essential information about what the government is doing.”
News of the seized phone records marks just the latest disclosure about the Trump administration’s heavy-handed tactics toward leak investigations involving journalists.
The Justice Department informed CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, in a May 13 letter, that prosecutors had obtained her phone and email records covering two months, from June 1, 2017, to July 31, 2017. The letter listed phone numbers for Starr’s Pentagon extension, the CNN Pentagon booth and Starr’s home and cell phones, as well as her work and personal email accounts.
And three Washington Post reporters who covered the FBI’s Russia investigation were told last month that last year the Justice Department had obtained their phone records from 2017. In 2018, the Justice Department disclosed it had also obtained 2017 phone and email communications from a reporter for BuzzFeed, Politico and The New York Times who had written stories about Russia.
Justice Department spokesperson Anthony Coley told CNN in a statement that “today, the Department of Justice notified four journalists that it obtained their phone toll re
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