Trump DOJ Investigated Internal Leaks By Obtaining Journalists' Phone Records

from the that's-not-how-this-is-supposed-to-be-done dept

Donald Trump liked to use the "Deep State" as a rhetorical punching bag. Whenever he stuck his foot in his mouth or found himself under investigation for abusing his powers, he claimed the "Deep State" just couldn't handle having such a strong truth-teller in the Oval Office. But he apparently liked the "Deep State" enough to allow it to go after his personal enemies, even as he portrayed himself as a warrior against the excesses of federal power.

Trump's primary enemy was the press. According to Trump, there was also a massive media conspiracy determined to oust him from power -- one that was headed by "failing" mass media figureheads like the New York Times and the Washington Post. The latter was often conflated with Amazon -- the apparent enemy of the United States Postal Service (until the USPS became an enemy by delivering mail-in votes). This wasn't just Twitter posturing. Apparently, Trump (and the agencies under his control) believed the newspaper was a threat the government should neutralize by mobilizing the "Deep State" powers he repeatedly criticized.

Documents obtained by the Washington Post show the DOJ directly targeting journalists' phone records in an apparent attempt to shield Trump from accusations of being BFFs with a foreign government's officials during its attempt to sway an American election.

The Trump Justice Department secretly obtained Washington Post journalists’ phone records and tried to obtain their email records over reporting they did in the early months of the Trump administration on Russia’s role in the 2016 election, according to government letters and officials.

In three separate letters dated May 3 and addressed to Post reporters Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller, and former Post reporter Adam Entous, the Justice Department wrote they were “hereby notified that pursuant to legal process the United States Department of Justice received toll records associated with the following telephone numbers for the period from April 15, 2017 to July 31, 2017.” The letters listed work, home or cellphone numbers covering that three-and-a-half-month period.

The DOJ has rules for targeting journalists. It generally agrees that it shouldn't, but a lot of times it actually believes it should, despite the First Amendment implications. Journalists and their sources are granted a whole lot of Constitutional protection but sometimes the federal government prefers to serve its own interests. Sniffing out leakers and whistleblowers is one of those interests the government tends to elevate above Constitutional concerns.

Now that it's being called out for its unconstitutional bullshit, the DOJ is getting pretty defensive about its meddling in First Amendment affairs. According to the DOJ, this incursion was a serious thing it would only do when it's super-serious about something.

"While rare, the Department follows the established procedures within its media guidelines policy when seeking legal process to obtain telephone toll records and non-content email records from media members as part of a criminal investigation into unauthorized disclosure of classified information,” said Marc Raimondi, a spokesman for the Justice Department. “The targets of these investigations are not the news media recipients but rather those with access to the national defense information who provided it to the media and thus failed to protect it as lawfully required.”

Well, if it's an internal investigation, try to keep it internal. Nothing really justifies going after reporters because it's easier or more efficient than targeting government employees who might be well-trained in subterfuge. If an investigation can't be closed without using the First Amendment as a doormat, perhaps the investigation should be abandoned. There are more important things for the DOJ to do than seek out people who turned over information to journalists. There are plenty of people willing to turn things over to foreign adversaries and maybe the DOJ should consider limiting itself to investigating leaks that harm more than a president's reputation.

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Filed Under: 1st amendment, 4th amendment, adam entous, doj, donald trump, ellen nakashima, greg miller, intimidation, journalism, surveillance
Companies: washington post


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  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 10 May 2021 @ 9:39am

    Trump projects so hard, he could run 6 movies simultaneously at a drive-in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 10 May 2021 @ 9:58am

      And I know which six: The Room, Birdemic, Manos: The Hands of Fate, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, and Home Alone 2 (but just the five or so seconds where he appears).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 May 2021 @ 10:28am

        Re:

        No, I'm pretty sure he would be projecting "The Trump Story - the billionaire", "The Turmp Story 2 - Mr universe", "The Trump Story 3 - still a billionaire", "The Trump Story 4 - Mr President", "The Tump Story 5 - The election was stolen" and "The Trump Story 6 - The return of the Donald".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 10 May 2021 @ 12:17pm

        Re:

        "Home Alone 2 (but just the five or so seconds where he appears)"

        I'm not a huge fan, but at least that's an actual movie with some quality production and some top quality talent (it's impossible to hate a movie where Tim Curry appears in top form).

        Instead, try Ghosts Can't Do It, in which Trump also appears. It makes the other films on your list look utterly Oscar-worthy by comparison.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 10 May 2021 @ 1:25pm

          Oh, trust me, I chose the other five for quality reasons…but I also chose them for reasons at least semi-related to his time in office:

          • The Room — focuses on a man who comes off as a sociopath and doesn’t seem to know what the fuck is going on at any given moment
          • Birdemic — involves a pandemic (of sorts) that kills without discrimination and hesitation
          • Manos — involves a cult whose leader is, at best, a charismatic predator
          • Plan 9 — two words: Space Force
          • Santa Claus Conquers the Martians — this one makes about as much sense as Qanon, so…

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 11 May 2021 @ 12:05am

            Re:

            Ghosts Can't Do It - Donald Trump has an extended cameo where he boasts about his wealth and tries to woo a desperate blonde grieving over the death of her much older husband.

            If that's not enough, the husband is played by Anthony Quinn, who is significantly older than star Bo Derek, to almost the same degree as her husband John Derek was, who wrote and directed the movie. He typically cast her in roles where she got naked a lot, and there's some weird sexual politics in the movie where she keeps referring to him as "great one" and all sorts of uncomfortable things about what a healthy relationship might look like. Oh, and half the film is spent with her trying to find an unwilling host for her husband to inhabit so they can have sex again, which is a pretty Trumpian idea of consent.

            I agree with your other takes, but I would suggest Trump's Razzie award winning performance as the one that belongs here.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 May 2021 @ 9:48am

    “The targets of these investigations are not the news media recipients but

    Anybody working for the government who speaks to the press without explicit clearance and knowing the relevant talking points.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ThatOtherOtherGuy, 10 May 2021 @ 10:03am

    Everything is Constitutionally protected.

    Until it isn't.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 10 May 2021 @ 10:20am

    Oh look, my shocked face.

    Of course they have managed to present a report about all of the whistle blowers they uncovered by violating rights... haven't they?

    We saw people quit rather than comply with the Tangerine Toddler's demand for illegal things... perhaps we should take a closer look at those who put job security over the law.

    DC is way more corrupt than people imagine (or are willing to admit despite all of the evidence) and I dunno how y'all can fix that.

    The dinosaurs are pretending that decorum will rule the day, while ignoring that playing this game killed over 500K citizens. Most of them are unwilling to do anything, it might hurt their campagin donations.

    The reality star killed the democracy.
    Sadly his faithful will see nothing wrong with this stunt, because admitting your guy was as bad if not worse than those he whined about is a hard pill to swallow.... besides somehow the Constitution will come alive and restore him to office so he can stop the evil child-eating pedophile rings.

    500K+ dead and somehow we've not managed to bitchslap elected officials STILL pretending masks do nothing but put you in league with the devil. (One does wonder how those who got the vaccine for the "nothing flu" before anyone else can still command any attention & claim its nothing).

    They spent so much time looking for the evil coming from the outside, they ignored the spreading evil on the inside. There should be punishment handed out, these actions undermine the rule of law & the public faith.

    Pity we no longer seem to care about our fellow man, as long as we imagine we are winning.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 May 2021 @ 10:24am

    The latter was often conflated with Amazon -- the apparent enemy of the United States Postal Service

    More like the apparent enemy of taxpayers, by paying less than the cost of delivery. It's corporatism at its finest.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rocky, 10 May 2021 @ 12:59pm

      Re:

      More like the apparent enemy of taxpayers, by paying less than the cost of delivery. It's corporatism at its finest.

      Funny that, in 2019 USPS revenue from Amazon was 3.9 billion dollars with a net profit of 1.6 billion dollars.

      But you got your wish, Amazon is ditching the USPS by building out their own delivery network which means an increased cost on the tax-payers to offset the profit USPS made off Amazon.

      How about you actually go look up some facts before opening your mouth confirming that you don't know what you are talking about.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        David, 11 May 2021 @ 6:03am

        Re: Re:

        How about you actually go look up some facts before opening your mouth confirming that you don't know what you are talking about.

        Uh, this is the Internet. You might equally well propose fact-checking pop songs. "These hips don't lie": probably depends on their party affiliation. "Can't buy me love": the jury is still out on Gaetz.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 10 May 2021 @ 4:21pm

      Re:

      Please to provide evidence supporting this claim.

      Then please explain how, IF the USPS managed to sign a contract that was so horrible for them no one ever sued or replaced them.

      Then please explain how having to prepay the full retirement costs for each employee from day 1 is a sound business decision & not just a cover story for Congress desperately trying to privatize USPS for donors to rip us off even further.

      Oh and while you are crying about Amazon you might want to look at all those other shipping services that use USPS for the last mile delivery of packages... did they get a deal thats below cost too?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 10 May 2021 @ 11:31am

    It's basically the definition of fascism

    when interests of the government (as representative of the state) trump the interests of citizens (as coded in the Bill of Rights).

    Too many government institutions treat the Constitution like a band may treat a song wish list: if they find it convenient, they are willing to give it a try.

    That's not how it works. After all those centuries, the government institutions still haven't got the hang of the difference between a kingdom and a republic and haven't figured out who they are working for.

    When it's so easy to forget, the structures and hierarchies are not set up in a manner robust against perversion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 May 2021 @ 12:39pm

    maybe the DOJ should consider limiting itself to investigating leaks that harm more than a president's reputation.

    Maybe they could limit themselves to investigating all the stuff they and other agencies do which prompts leaks and whistleblowers, instead of the leakers and whistleblowers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Peter (profile), 10 May 2021 @ 12:49pm

    not sure what is more worrying here

    The government spying on journalists. Or the government giving access to classified documents to people it considers stupid enough to leak them to the media using their own phones and email accounts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 11 May 2021 @ 12:43am

      Re: not sure what is more worrying here

      "The government spying on journalists. Or the government giving access to classified documents to people it considers stupid enough to leak them to the media using their own phones and email accounts."

      Both of them a classic in great regimes of yore which are lamentably no longer with us.
      And I say "lamentably" because it took very little time between the collapse of the USSR and the US wholeheartedly adopting all the bad citizen-hostile habits they'd been so avidly scolding the soviets for. At least during the latter stages of the cold war the "west" had to be more cautious about overtly adopting the commie methods as the enemy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 10 May 2021 @ 1:45pm

    Well that's reasuring

    Nowhere in that quote at the end do I see an apology or an admission that they did something they shouldn't have, merely an attempt to justify it, which suggests rather strongly that there's nothing stopping them from doing the same in the future since they see nothing wrong with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 May 2021 @ 2:35pm

    The Deep State

    The deep state is nothing more than people with careers in government working to keep them and advance them.

    It's not a shadow conspiracy theory and it's a very real problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 10 May 2021 @ 5:25pm

      The deep state is nothing more than people with careers in government working to keep them and advance them.

      So…Mitch McConnell?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 May 2021 @ 5:33pm

      Re: The Deep State

      Trump was technically right about the Deep State - well, he was right that it exists. He was just tragically wrong about everything else, an inevitable factor considering that he was a part of it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 11 May 2021 @ 1:32am

      Re: The Deep State

      "It's not a shadow conspiracy theory and it's a very real problem."

      Chomsky is often problematic but his assertion that conspiracies don't exist - opportunists simply move in predictable directions - is likely correct. It doesn't take a shadowy conspiracy for fifteen different unscrupulous grifters in political office to all try to ride on the coattails of the latest opportunity.

      Or putting it in simpler terms, you don't need a great and cunning plan to follow your own interests.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2021 @ 6:32am

        Re: Re: The Deep State

        Conspiracies often exist. For one, the evangelic christian right had a conspiracy that lasted for decades to usurp the republican party. It wasn't hidden at all. There's the rub, though, conspiracies almost never succeed if they try to remain secrets.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 11 May 2021 @ 7:01am

          Re: Re: Re: The Deep State

          Individual conspiracies do exist. For example, MKUltra, Iran-Contra, various puppet dictators installed by the US to try and stop communism or "fight" the war on drugs.

          What doesn't exist is the Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion, and QAnon's attempts to update it in order to pretend that everything wrong with their lives is related to an overarching single conspiracy.

          If people want to refer to the "deep state" as being the unfortunate side effect of US government, where wealth- and power-hungry people not elected to the highest office can have a greater effect on how the government operates over decades than any single administration, they have a point. If they want to refer to it as a shadowy cabal of "elites" run specifically to serve the New World Order, especially if they're also elevating the likes of Trump to messiah status for not being part of it, they're nutters.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2021 @ 9:00am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: The Deep State

            There are definitely more conspiracies perceived than actually exist. Many people do seem to suffer from what might be called the "reverse Horatio" phenomenon, where there are more things dreamt of in their philosophy than exist in Heaven and Earth.

            But just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean nobody is out to get you. Some conspiracies are real.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 12 May 2021 @ 7:23am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The Deep State

              "But just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean nobody is out to get you. Some conspiracies are real."

              Some conspiracies are, some aren't. The ones where there's a shady secret cabal of demon worshipping pedophiles using the pandemic to create a new world order through masks and vaccinations are not real.

              Maybe there's individual conspiracies where people who stand to directly profit from the current situation have a reason to keep it going (such as a certain bankrupt former gameshow host), but real conspiracies tend to have actual scope and realistic goals and fall apart if they get beyond those.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2021 @ 10:11am

    Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia, ad nauseam. I guess according to Techdirt that never happened. I won’t hold my breath waiting for mea culpas from CNN and MSNBC. It’s no wonder that people don’t trust anything “journalists’” write. Except for Glenn Greenwald, but that name is verboten here. Deleted post incoming….

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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