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

Following a joint presser with Korean President Moon Jae-In within the White House East Room, Biden instructed CNN: “We should absolutely, positively — it’s wrong, it’s simply, simply wrong,” including, “I will not let that happen.”

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 concentrating on journalists in leak investigations.

The Justice Department knowledgeable Starr, in a May 13 letter, that prosecutors had obtained her cellphone and electronic mail information overlaying 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 dwelling and cell telephones, in addition to Starr’s work and private electronic mail accounts.

It is unclear when the investigation was opened, whether or not it occurred below Attorney General Jeff Sessions or Attorney General William Barr, and what the Trump administration was in search of in Starr’s information. The Justice Department confirmed the information had been sought via the courts final 12 months however supplied no additional rationalization or context.

A Justice Department 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 power to struggle the subpoena in court docket. But Justice Department coverage additionally permits prosecutors to acquire journalists’ communications with out their data via the courts — if the lawyer basic indicators off and the Justice Department determines the case falls below “extraordinary measures,” equivalent to 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 House press secretary Jen Psaki sidestepped answering on Friday whether or not the Biden administration believes seizing journalists’ cellphone information is an “appropriate tactic,” when requested to reply to stories from CNN and the Washington Post that the earlier administration’s Justice Department had executed in order a part of its leak investigations.

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

“This President is committed, strongly, to the rights of the freedom of press as you’ve seen for decades, and standing up for the rights of journalists. And the Justice Department conveyed yesterday that they intend to meet with reporters to hear their concerns about recent notices, and they certainly intend to use the Holder model as their model, not the model of the last several years, but really these decisions would be up to the Justice Department,” Psaki added, referring to former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder.

The Obama administration additionally got here below criticism for its heavy-handed ways towards leak investigations involving journalists. But the Trump administration aggressively pursued leak investigations as the previous President incessantly railed in opposition to the leaks popping out of the federal government. The newest disclosures seem to indicate the Justice Department concentrating on information organizations and social media corporations notably loathed by the previous President.

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

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

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