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Trump govt. secretly got journalists’ records: report

Controversial tenure: Donald Trump speaking to reporters in Washington, in this file photo.   | Photo Credit: AFP

The Trump Justice Department secretly seized the phone records of three Washington Post reporters who covered the federal investigation into ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, the newspaper said on Friday.

The disclosure sets up a new clash between the federal government and news organisations and advocates for press freedom, who regard the seizures of reporters’ records as incursions into constitutionally protected newsgathering activity.

Similar actions have occurred only rarely over the past decade, including a seizure of phone records of Associated Press reporters and editors over a 2012 news report that revealed a foiled bomb plot.

In a statement published by the newspaper, Cameron Barr, the Post’s acting executive editor, said: “We are deeply troubled by this use of government power to seek access to the communications of journalists. The Department of Justice should immediately make clear its reasons for this intrusion into the activities of reporters doing their jobs, an activity protected under the First Amendment.”

The action is presumably aimed at identifying the reporters’ sources in national security stories published in the early months of Mr. Trump’s administration, as federal investigators scrutinised whether his 2016 campaign had coordinated with the Kremlin to sway the election.

The records’ seizure was approved by Justice Department leadership last year. The reporters — Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller and Adam Entous, who has since left the Post — were notified in letters dated May 3 that the Justice Department had obtained records for their home, work or cellphone numbers.

The records sought cover the period of April 15, 2017, to July 31, 2017, according to the newspaper.

Justice Department guidelines for media leak investigations mandate that such actions are to be taken only when other avenues for obtaining the information have been exhausted, and that the affected reporters are to be notified unless it’s determined that it would impede the investigation or interfere with national security.


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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 4:35:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/trump-govt-secretly-got-journalists-records-report/article34516608.ece

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