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The Times, Post and CNN want answers as Trump’s Justice Department’s secret tactics come to light

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The Times, Post and CNN want answers as Trump’s Justice Department’s secret tactics come to light

New details about Trump’s Justice Department secret search of a CNN reporter’s email records emerged Wednesday when parts of the case were revealed, lifting a gag order that had barred CNN’s attorney general. David Vigilante to discuss the government’s longstanding legal efforts beyond a select group of people: president of the network Jeff sugarand other CNN attorneys, for nearly a year. Justice Department’s months-long court battle to get tens of thousands of CNN reporters Barbara starrThe 2017 logs ultimately “resulted in the network agreeing to deliver a limited set of email logs,” CNN revealed, a resolution that came in January, just days after the president Joe biden took office. A month earlier, CNN attorneys successfully fought to narrow the scope of what the government was seeking, as a federal judge ruled that the Justice Department’s request to access Starr’s internal emails was “not anchored in any fact “and” was not sufficiently connected with any relevant evidence., material, or useful for the governments ascribed investigation “. Starr’s phone records and personal email account details had been seized separately, he learned in May, a disclosure that CNN said it had not known about before.

In recounting the lengthy court battle on Wednesday, Vigilante wrote that Justice Department attorneys “showed no interest in exploring good faith ways to reduce order” or helping CNN attorneys better understand the scenario, as they were barred from knowing what specifically the government was looking for, whom They were addressing or the subject of the report in question: “In short, all the tools that attorneys use every day to navigate these situations were denied to us.” Vigilante said that “they told him in unequivocal terms (several times) that I was prohibited from communicating about any aspect of the order or these procedures to the journalist whose interests I have a duty to protect” and “subject to charges of contempt and even criminal prosecution for obstruction of justice ”if he violated the secret order, one that he noted that, in his two decades on CNN, he had never faced before.

CNN is one of three news organizations that just learned of efforts under the Trump administration to secretly obtain journalists’ records in an attempt to identify their sources, and one of two that was subject to a warrant for silence as part of a leak investigation. In recent weeks, the New York Times—The other news outlet placed under a gag order – and the Washington Post they were also notified by Merrick garlandJustice Department of Trump-era practices. mail redaction boss Cameron barr saying at that time, the Department of Justice “should immediately clarify the reasons for this interference in the activities of the reporters who do their work.” In all three cases, Trump’s Justice Department, in 2020, looked for records dating back to 2017.

The revelations have raised concerns about the First Amendment and put increasing pressure on the president. Joe biden commit to breaking with the practice aggressively deployed by its two most recent predecessors. Under the president Barack Obama, the Department of Justice prosecuted more leak cases That those brought under all previous administrations combined and took unprecedented steps to uncover the sources of reporters in such investigations, an approach taken by the president Donald trump—Whose Justice Department’s radical assault on press freedom is only now, amid recent record seizure disclosures, coming into focus.

Last Saturday, after Times revealed that newspaper executives had been placed under a gag order during the Trump administration’s fight to obtain the emails of four Times reporters – a push that, like the gag order imposed on CNN attorneys, continued briefly under Biden – the Garland Justice Department issued a statement announcing that it would not “seek mandatory legal process in leak investigations to obtain information from members of the media doing their job,” breaking with a “long-standing practice” that, in a separate statement that day, the White House press secretary Jen psaki He said it “is not consistent with the president’s political direction to the Department.” While the Justice Department professed its commitment to “a free press, upholding the values ​​of the First Amendment” and “taking all appropriate measures to ensure the independence of journalists,” the Associated Press indicated It was unclear whether the department would continue aggressive investigations of leaks without seizing reporters’ records or specifying who, in terms of policy, is categorized as a member of the media or the parameters of protection.

According to the Times, Wreath saying would issue a memorandum detailing the new policy it called Wednesday “the most protective ability of journalists to do their job in history.” The attorney general reportedly scheduled a meeting with the leaders of the three affected news organizations for Monday. “We are pleased that Attorney General Garland has agreed to this meeting,” Times editor AG Sulzberger said in a statement to Vanity fair. “We hope to use the meeting to learn more about how this seizure of records occurred and to seek a compromise that the Justice Department will no longer seize journalists’ records during leak investigations.”

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– The Lab Leak Theory: Inside the Struggle to Uncover the Origins of COVID-19
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– Not a subscriber? Get in Vanity fair to receive full access to VF.com and the full archive online now.

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