The Justice Department "picked out James Rosen and tried to make an example of him," GOP strategist Karl Rove tells Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview.
Alert: Obama Movie Exposes Frightening Agenda. Get the DVD Here.
"It's very serious because, heretofore — at least in the last several decades — when those kind of things happen, the focus of whatever administration that was in office was on the leaker, not the journalist who received the information," Rove tells Newsmax, referring to the Fox News reporter.
Story continues below.
"But in this instance, the focus was on depicting James Rosen as a criminal for having received information from somebody inside the government," Rove adds. "That ought to chill anybody who believes in a free press. These are extraordinary steps."
The New Yorker reported this week that Justice seized the telephone records of five Fox News reporters and several White House staffers in connection with the 2009 probe into a former State Department contractor who is accused of leaking classified information to Rosen.
The disclosure came in a document filed in the case of the former contractor, Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, on Oct. 13, 2011, The New Yorker reports.
"I'm sympathetic to wanting to discover the leak of confidential or classified government information," Rove tells Newsmax, "but it's just really extraordinary and it was deliberate.
"They said, 'We want to make an example of a reporter — and it just really makes us happy that it's a Fox News reporter.'"
Rove says that it is just as "extraordinary" that Justice also recently seized two months of telephone records from editors and reporters of The Associated Press.
"There are very firm Justice Department guidelines that say that this can done only in the most extreme of circumstances — and then only with the approval of the attorney general."
Latest: Is Benghazi a Cover Up? Is Obama at the Heart of It? Vote Here
But Attorney General Eric Holder testified on Capitol Hill last week that he had recused himself from the matter, leaving the decision to a deputy attorney general.
"This is an unwise policy," Rove tells Newsmax. "We shouldn't be going after the journalist."
Editor's Note: Read the Full Newsmax Interview and Excerpts With Karl Rove
© 2015 Newsmax. All rights reserved.