The Trump Justice Department secretly gained access to three Washington Post reporters’ phone records in 2020, without telling them until today.
The decision to use secret subpoenas to access reporters’ records was approved by Attorney General William Barr sometime last year. The subpoenas include all calls on home phones, cellphones, and work phones between April 15, 2017 and July 31, 2017 — when the Trump administration was focused on stopping government leaks and whistleblowers.
During that timeframe, the three targeted journalists were working on a story about then-Sen. Jeff Sessions discussing the Trump campaign with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States in 2016. Their reporting was based on classified U.S. intelligence documents and anonymous sources.
Justice Department officials would not say if that reporting was the reason for the search of journalists’ phone records. Sessions subsequently became President Donald Trump’s first attorney general and was at the Justice Department when the article appeared.
About a month before that story published, the same three journalists also wrote a detailed story about the Obama administration’s internal struggles to counter Russian interference in the 2016 election.The Washington Post
The Trump Justice Department repeatedly told journalists in 2017 that, while Sessions and Kislyak were at the same event, their paths never crossed. If the subpoenas were related to the Sessions-Kislyak story, then DOJ officials knew they were lying and that reporters had a real inside source.
Later, on May 13, the Justice Department informs CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr that officials had obtained her phone and email records for the period between June 1, 2017, and July 31, 2017.
It is unclear when the investigation was opened, whether it happened under Attorney General Jeff Sessions or Attorney General William Barr, and what the Trump administration was looking for in Starr’s records. The Justice Department confirmed the records were sought through the courts last year but provided no further explanation or context.CNN
In that time frame, Starr reported on Trump plans for North Korea, the U.S. response to a potential chemical attack in Syria, and a Trump administration decision to delay releasing information about American military deaths in Afghanistan.
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