- The US Justice Department under Trump sought the email records of four New York Times reporters.
- The effort continued with the Biden administration, and was subject to a gag order.
- The bid reflected the Trump administration’s effort to discover the reporters’ sources.
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President Joe Biden’s administration kept moving forward with a secret legal battle that started at the end of President Donald Trump’s time in office. The battle revolved around an effort to obtain email records belonging to four New York Times reporters as part of a bid to discover their sources, The Times reported Friday.
David McCraw, a lawyer for The Times, said the Trump administration never told the newspaper about the legal effort, but the Biden administration did, sharing details with top executives. But a gag order imposed on March 3 kept the news away from the public until it was lifted, McCraw told the newspaper.
The leak investigation, like the many that reportedly occurred while Trump was in office, grew out of the former president’s aversion to news reporting that painted his administration in an unflattering light.
It was not clear why the former administration sought email data from The Times reporters in this particular case.
According to the newspaper, the reporters named in the request – Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eric Lichtblau, and Michael S. Schmidt – and the timeframe in which the Trump administration sought email data suggests a focus on a story from April 2017 about how the former US attorney general James Comey handled “politically charged” investigations during the 2016 election.
The Times reported the administration tried to get the email logs directly from Google, which serviced The Times’ email accounts. The tech giant denied the request.
Google did not respond to Insider’s request for comment but a spokesperson told The Times the company is “firmly committed to protecting our customers’ data and we have a long history of pushing to notify our customers about any legal requests.”
McCraw said the hunt for the emails continued in Biden’s administration and he was only informed about it in March under a nondisclosure agreement.
The news comes just a few days after the Biden administration informed the four Times reporters that the Trump Justice Department secretly obtained their phone records in 2017.
“Seizing the phone records of journalists profoundly undermines press freedom,” Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, 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.”
The Trump administration also obtained the phone records of three Washington Post reporters and attempted to get their email records.
Last month, the Justice Department also revealed the Trump administration also attempted to secretly get ahold of the 2017 phone and email records of a CNN Pentagon correspondent.