CNN announced on Wednesday that the Department of Justice had been conducting a secret legal battle to obtain the email transcripts of one of its reporters – and that the government issued a gag order on the network’s lawyers and its President Jeff Zucker as part of the battle.
The news channel’s exposure came less than a week after a New York Times attorney announced that he and a handful of the newspaper’s lawyers and executives had been gagged in a similar fight resulting from a leak investigation.
The battle over the CNN reporter’s email data began in July 2020 under the Trump administration and was resolved on January 26, shortly after the Biden administration took office, in an agreement with prosecutors under which the network was established “Handed over a limited set of email logs,” it said. A judge recently overturned the warrant on the matter.
The disclosure was the last to include aggressive moves by the Justice Department late in the Trump administration into leak investigations and the second investigation now known to have spilled over into the early Biden administration.
The Justice Department announced in recent weeks that it had successfully seized phone recordings of four Times reporters, the CNN reporter and several Washington Post reporters as part of leak investigations during the Trump administration. Everyone involved records from 2017.
As a result of the revelations, President Biden ordered the department to end the practice of confiscating reporters’ communications records in order to identify their sources. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has scheduled a meeting with the leaders of the three news organizations for Monday.