Nighttime view of the New York Times Building
Nighttime view of the New York Times Building
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  • Trump's DOJ secretly obtained the phone records of four NYT journalists, the The Times reported.
  • Three Washington Post reporters and CNN's Barbara Starr also faced similar seizures.
  • Biden has called the practice "simply wrong" and said that his DOJ will not do it.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The Trump administration's Department of Justice covertly obtained the phone records of four New York Times reporters, the Biden administration told the paper on Wednesday.

The records, which were from a four-month period in 2017, were seized in 2020 during an investigation into a leak, The Times reported.

"Seizing the phone records of journalists profoundly undermines press freedom," Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, said in a statement. "It threatens to silence the sources we depend on to provide the public with essential information about what the government is doing."

Read more: We identified the 125 people and institutions most responsible for Donald Trump's rise to power and his norm-busting behavior that tested the boundaries of the US government and its institutions

The disclosure is just the latest from the Biden administration, which revealed in early May that the Trump administration's Justice Department quietly accessed the 2017 phone records of three reporters from The Washington Post, and also tried to get their email records. All three of the reporters had been covering Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Later in May, the Justice Department revealed the previous administration had also secretly obtained phone and email records from 2017 of CNN's pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

The four Times reporters targeted were Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eric Lichtblau and Michael S. Schmidt. The Justice Department did not indicate which of their articles was being scrutinized, but The Times said the reporters and timing suggested it was an April 2017 report about FBI Director James Comey's handling of politically sensitive investigations during the 2016 election.

Following the disclosure Wednesday, Times reporter Adam Goldman tweeted that the Justice Department had "now secretly seized my phone records twice," under both Obama and Trump.

"I don't care who is president - Republican or Democrat - I will always try to inform the public," the tweet continued.

Federal investigators have long-seized records from journalists, a controversial practice heavily used under the Obama administration and under Trump.

President Joe Biden told The Times last month the practice of seizing reporters records is "simply wrong" and that he will not let it occur under his Justice Department.

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