President says he will not let DOJ seize cellphone information or emails from reporters: ‘It is merely, merely improper’

Following a joint presser with Korean President Moon Jae-In within the White Home East Room, Biden informed CNN: “We must always completely, positively — it is improper, it is merely, merely improper,” including, “I cannot let that occur.”

CNN reported Thursday that the Trump administration secretly sought and obtained the 2017 cellphone and electronic mail information of CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, the most recent occasion the place federal prosecutors have taken aggressive steps focusing on journalists in leak investigations.

The Justice Division knowledgeable Starr, in a Might 13 letter, that prosecutors had obtained her cellphone and electronic mail information protecting two months — between June 1, 2017 to July 31, 2017. The letter listed cellphone numbers for Starr’s Pentagon extension, the CNN Pentagon sales space cellphone quantity and her residence and cell telephones, in addition to Starr’s work and private electronic mail accounts.

It’s unclear when the investigation was opened, whether or not it occurred underneath Lawyer Normal Jeff Classes or Lawyer Normal William Barr, and what the Trump administration was in search of in Starr’s information. The Justice Division confirmed the information had been sought via the courts final 12 months however supplied no additional clarification or context.

A Justice Division official confirmed that Starr was by no means the goal of any investigation.

In some instances, members of the media are notified earlier than a subpoena is issued, giving the information group the flexibility to combat the subpoena in courtroom. However Justice Division coverage additionally permits prosecutors to acquire journalists’ communications with out their data via the courts — if the lawyer common indicators off and the Justice Division determines the case falls underneath “extraordinary measures,” resembling hurt to nationwide safety, and in spite of everything different cheap makes an attempt have been made to acquire the knowledge elsewhere.

Earlier Friday, White Home press secretary Jen Psaki sidestepped answering on Friday whether or not the Biden administration believes seizing journalists’ cellphone information is an “acceptable tactic,” when requested to answer studies from CNN and the Washington Publish that the earlier administration’s Justice Division had performed in order a part of its leak investigations.

Psaki stated she had discovered of the difficulty after CNN’s report Thursday.

“This President is dedicated, strongly, to the rights of the liberty of press as you’ve got seen for many years, and standing up for the rights of journalists. And the Justice Division conveyed yesterday that they intend to fulfill with reporters to listen to their considerations about latest notices, and so they actually intend to make use of the Holder mannequin as their mannequin, not the mannequin of the final a number of years, however actually these selections can be as much as the Justice Division,” Psaki added, referring to former Obama administration Lawyer Normal Eric Holder.

The Obama administration additionally got here underneath criticism for its heavy-handed ways towards leak investigations involving journalists. However the Trump administration aggressively pursued leak investigations as the previous President often railed towards the leaks popping out of the federal government. The newest disclosures seem to point out the Justice Division focusing on information organizations and social media firms notably loathed by the previous President.

This story has been up to date with extra background info.

CNN’s Jeremy Herb and Jessica Schneider contributed to this report.

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