(PresidentialWire.com)- One former and two current reporters for the Washington Post were recently revealed to be the targets of a Trump-era Justice Department investigation into leaks to the press.
According to the Post, phone records for the three reporters were obtained for the period from April 15, 2017 to July 31, 2017. At the time, the reporters were working on stories related to Russian election influence vis-à-vis the Trump Administration. Those records were reviewed by the Trump DOJ in 2020.
The seized phone records included the caller and recipient’s numbers and the durations of the calls, but no information on the content of the conversations. While these reporters found themselves at the center of the investigation, they were never the persons of interest. Rather, the DOJ was attempting to discover which members of the administration these reporters were speaking to.
At that time in 2017, the Trump administration struggled with numerous leaks to the press, many of which contained classified information.
However, the Washington Post’s acting Executive Editor Cameron Barr fired back saying, “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.”
While investigations into leaks are common across recent presidential administrations, news outlets have often decried the seizing of records as an infringement of the freedom of the press.
The Justice Department, for its part, defended the investigations as legitimate and lawful.
A spokesman for the DOJ, Marc Raimondi stated that, “While rare, the Department follows the established procedures within its media guidelines policy when seeking legal process to obtain telephone toll records and non-content email records from media members as part of a criminal investigation into unauthorized disclosure of classified information.”
Raimondi went on to reiterate that the reporters were not the targets of the investigations, but those who spoke with them who had access to protected information.
But that still didn’t stop others from sounding off on the investigations on Twitter
Breaking WaPo: The Trump Justice Department secretly obtained Washington Post journalists' phone records and tried to obtain their email records over reporting they did in the early months of the Trump admin on Russia's role in the 2016 election. https://t.co/sDxy93etgK
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 7, 2021
Abuse of power? Justice Dept. Seized Washington Post’s Phone Records to spy on leaks https://t.co/rcbg7sWJg8
— Jane Mayer (@JaneMayerNYer) May 8, 2021
What, if anything, the Trump DOJ was able to determine from the phone records is still an open question.