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Biden says he won't let Justice Dept seize reporters' phone, email records

  • >> Reuters
    Published: 2021-05-22 18:57:57 BdST

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks before a ceasefire agreed by Israel and Hamas was to go into effect, during a brief appearance in the Cross Hall at the White House in Washington, US, May 20, 2021. Reuters

US President Joe Biden on Friday said he would not allow his Justice Department to seize the phone or email records of reporters, saying any such move would be "simply wrong."

Biden's comments came a day after CNN reported that the Justice Department had told its correspondent Barbara Starr that the former Trump administration had secretly obtained two months of her phone and email records in 2017.

The Washington Post earlier this month said the Trump administration had also secretly obtained the phone records of three of its reporters over work they did in 2017.

"Absolutely, positively, it's wrong," Biden told reporters after a joint news conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. "It's simply, simply wrong. I will not let that happen."

CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer welcomed Biden's comments as "really encouraging news."

Biden's press secretary, Jen Psaki, told reporters earlier Friday that the Justice Department intends to meet with media representatives following CNN’s revelation.

“This president is committed strongly to the rights of freedom of the press, as you have seen for decades, and for standing up for the rights of journalists,” she said.

She said Biden's Justice Department intended to use the "Holder model," not that of the Trump administration, in regard to its practices, a reference to former Attorney General Eric Holder, who served under President Barack Obama.

Holder revised Justice Department rules in 2013 to restrict the government's ability to subpoena the records of reporters without express consent from the top of the department, although he later faced criticism for approving the seizing of call records from Associated Press and Fox News reporters.

Former President Donald Trump had a contentious relationship with the press, often publicly lambasting reporters and their outlets as "fake news."

The National Press Club earlier this month said the Trump administration's moves to seize reporters' phone records marked "another deeply disturbing example in a series of violations by the Trump administration of America’s trust in government and an outright assault against the press and the First Amendment."

"While the government has a right to probe leaks of classified information, it must take great care to avoid a harm that could prove more serious: chilling the flow of information to the free press," the club's leaders said.