The Department of Justice under Donald Trump obtained months worth of phone records of several Washington Post journalists who covered Russian election interference, the Post reports. Two reporters for the paper and a former reporter were told earlier this month that the DOJ had obtained the phone records at some point in 2020, for calls made and received between April 15, 2017 and July 31, 2017. “We are deeply troubled by this use of government power to seek access to the communications of journalists,” the newspaper’s acting executive editor, Cameron Barr, said in a statement. “The Department of Justice should immediately make clear its reasons for this intrusion into the activities of reporters doing their jobs, an activity protected under the First Amendment.”
A DOJ spokesman defended the move as a necessary part of “a criminal investigation into unauthorized disclosure of classified information.” The phone records showed the parties involved in each call, how long the call lasted and when it happened, but they don’t show the content of the call. The DOJ also reportedly sought to obtain the reporters’ email records but didn’t end up getting them. The Post notes that during the time period in question, the reporters had covered U.S. intelligence about Jeff Sessions’ interactions with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislayk regarding the Trump campaign. They also wrote about Russian election meddling in 2016.