White House disavows knowledge of gag order on New York Times leaders in leak inquiry – The San Diego Union-Tribune

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration said Saturday that no one at the White House had been aware that the Justice Department was seeking to seize the email data of four New York Times reporters and had obtained a gag order in March barring a handful of newspaper executives who knew about the fight from discussing it.

The disavowal came one day after a court lifted the gag order, which permitted a Times lawyer to disclose the department’s effort to obtain email logs from Google, which operates the Times’ email system. The effort began in the last days of the Trump administration and continued until Wednesday, when the Biden Justice Department asked a judge to quash the matter without having obtained the data about who had been in contact with the reporters.

“As appropriate given the independence of the Justice Department in specific criminal cases, no one at the White House was aware of the gag order until Friday night,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

The administration also announced that the Justice Department was formally changing its leak investigation policy to ban seizures of reporters’ phone and email records in an effort to uncover their sources.

The Justice Department has not responded to questions about who inside the department knew about the fight with Google and the gag order imposed on Times executives — and when.

Prosecutors in the office of the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia obtained the secret court order for Google Jan. 5 when the Trump administration still controlled the department. It required the company to turn over data about four reporters’ emails showing whom they had been in contact with, and not to tell The Times.

Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., an outside lawyer for The Times, said that in a meeting on April 6, Gregg Maisel, head of the national security division in the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, told The Times’ legal team that prosecutors had obtained approval for the order, which he described as reasonable, and that Biden officials had been apprised of the matter.

That meeting occurred about three weeks after Attorney General Merrick Garland took office and about two months before the Justice Department asked a judge to quash the order to Google.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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