Donald Trump’s Department of Justice secretly obtained the phone and email records of CNN’s Barbara Starr, a Pentagon reporter, in 2017.
Earlier this month, the cable network was made aware of the surveillance by President Biden’s DOJ. During the two-month period in question, Starr covered a series of military proposals against North Korea prepared for Trump, a potential chemical attack in Syria, and a change in the policy regarding how the U.S. reports on combat deaths in Afghanistan.
“CNN strongly condemns the secret collection of any aspect of a journalist’s correspondence, which is clearly protected by the First Amendment,” said CNN President Jeff Zucker. “We are asking for an immediate meeting with the Justice Department for an explanation.”
“Department leadership will soon meet with reporters to hear their concerns about recent notices and further convey Attorney General Garland’s staunch support of and commitment to a free and independent press,” said Anthony Coley, DOJ’s director of public affairs.
Trump’s DOJ had obtained records related to CNN’s Pentagon booth phone number and Starr’s home and cell phones. They also obtained information on her work and personal email accounts. The DOJ captured “non-content information” from Starr’s emails – meaning they were able to see recipient information (including timing) but were not able to read the body of emails. This implies that the DOJ was looking to see who was leaking information to Starr.
The Starr revelation is just the latest example of the Trump administration secretly obtaining information related to the communications of journalists. Earlier this month, it was revealed that the Trump DOJ obtained the phone records of three reporters at The Washington Post.
Trump has repeatedly criticized CNN and The Washington Post. He pledged to prosecute government officials who engaged in unauthorized communication with the press. He shares that predilection with his predecessor. According to The New York Times, “the Obama administration oversaw nearly a dozen leak-related prosecutions, more than all previous presidents combined.”