The Justice Department tried to seize the email records of four New York Times reporters and imposed a gag order on the newspaper’s executives to keep the matter from going public, a lawyer for the paper said late Friday. David McCraw said he was finally free to sound the alarm about the “stunning” situation after a federal court lifted a gag order that had been in place since March 3 preventing him and other executives from telling the newspaper’s leadership about the government’s secret battle to identify the reporters’ sources. The hunt for sources is said to have begun in the final days of the Trump administration, but it continued even after President Joe Biden took over, according to the Times.
The Justice Department had demanded that Google, which handles the newspaper’s email system, turn over email logs, but the company refused. “Clearly, Google did the right thing, but it should never have come to this,” executive editor Dean Baquet said. “The Justice Department relentlessly pursued the identity of sources for coverage that was clearly in the public interest in the final 15 days of the Trump administration. And the Biden administration continued to pursue it. As I said before, it profoundly undermines press freedom.” The news follows revelations that Trump’s DOJ obtained months worth of phone records of reporters at The New York Times, as well as communications of reporters at The Washington Post and CNN.