The phone records of four reporters for The New York Times were secretly seized by the Justice Department under then-President Donald Trump, the newspaper is reporting.
The Times attributed the information to the Biden administration and said the records spanned nearly four months in 2017 and were part of a leak investigation.
The Justice Department said the phone records of reporters Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eric Lichtblau, and Michael S. Schmidt were seized.
Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the Times, condemned the Trump administration for the action regarding the reporters.
"Seizing the phone records of journalists profoundly undermines press freedom," he said 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."
CNN had reported in May that the Trump administration secretly sought and obtained 2017 phone and email records of the news network’s Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr as part of a leak investigation.
And The Washington Post reported on May 7 that the Trump Justice Department obtained the phone records from two current reporters and one former journalist from the paper for a period in 2017.
After the disclosures of the CNN and Post seizures, President Joe Biden said he would not allow the justice department to take such steps against reporters.
And Baquet noted the Biden vow, saying: "President Biden has said this sort of interference with a free press will not be tolerated in his administration. We expect the Department of Justice to explain why this action was taken and what steps are being taken to make certain it does not happen again in the future."
The records from the Times’ journalists were reportedly obtained in 2020.
Anthony Coley, a Justice Department spokesman, said that "members of the news media have now been notified in every instance" of leak investigations from the 2019-2020 period in which their records were sought.
The Justice Department did not detail which article was being investigated, according to the Times.
The newspaper speculated that the leak probe related to classified information reported in an April 22, 2017, article the four Times journalists wrote about how James Comey, then the FBI director, handled politically charged investigations during the 2016 presidential election.
The Hill noted that Sen. Ron Wyden D-Ore. and Rep. Jamie Raskin D-Md. Have urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to end the practice against reporters.
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