CNN disclosed on Wednesday that the Justice Department had fought a secret legal battle to obtain the email logs of one of its reporters — and that as part of the fight the government imposed a gag order on the network’s lawyers and its president, Jeff Zucker.
The news network’s disclosure came less than a week after a lawyer for The New York Times revealed that he and a handful of lawyers and executives for the newspaper had been gagged as part of a similar fight stemming from a leak investigation.
The fight for the CNN reporter’s email data began in July 2020 under the Trump administration and was resolved on Jan. 26, just after the Biden administration took office, in a deal with prosecutors under which the network turned over “a limited set of email logs,” it said. A judge recently lifted the gag order over the matter.
The disclosure was the latest involving aggressive steps the Justice Department took in leak inquiries late in the Trump administration, and the second inquiry now known to have spilled over into the early Biden administration.
The Justice Department had revealed in recent weeks that it had, during the Trump administration, successfully seized phone records for the four Times reporters, the CNN reporter and several reporters at The Washington Post as part of leak investigations. Each involved records from 2017.
In the fallout from the revelations, President Biden has directed the department to cease the practice of seizing reporters’ communications records in an attempt to identify their sources. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has scheduled a meeting with leaders of the three news organizations for Monday.