“Highly unusual”: Freedom of Information Act request reveals Trump DOJ’s “egregious” secret subpoena

Justice Department targeted reporter's phone records after leak about Trump's child separation policy

By Bob Brigham

Published May 13, 2022 11:30AM (EDT)

Former US Attorney General Bill Barr (Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)
Former US Attorney General Bill Barr (Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on Raw Story

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The Department of Justice has revealed that it subpoenaed records of a journalist during a leak investigation following negative stories about Donald Trump's administration.

"Leak investigators issued the subpoena to obtain the phone number of Stephanie Kirchgaessner, the Guardian's investigations correspondent in Washington. The move was carried out without notifying the newspaper or its reporter, as part of an attempt to ferret out the source of media articles about a review into family separation conducted by the Department of Justice's inspector general, Michael Horowitz," the British newspaper reported. "It is highly unusual for US government officials to obtain a journalist's phone details in this way, especially when no national security or classified information is involved. The move was all the more surprising in that it came from the DoJ's inspector general's office – the watchdog responsible for ethical oversight and whistleblower protections."

That wasn't the only irregularity.

"The leak inquiry was conducted on behalf of the DoJ by the inspector general's office of an outside government department, housing and urban development (HUD). Its investigation focused on allegations that an employee within the DoJ's inspector general's office had leaked sensitive information to three news outlets – the Guardian, the New York Times and NBC News. The Guardian was the only one of the three outlets to have a subpoena issued relating to its reporter's phone account," it noted.

Katharine Viner, the Guardian's editor-in-chief, blasted the subpoena as "an egregious example of infringement on press freedom and public interest journalism by the US Department of Justice."

The Guardian published two stories on Trump's family separation policies during the heart of the 2020 election.

"The Guardian published two sensitive reports by Kirchgaessner within the timeframe of the DoJ review into child separation covered by the leak inquiry. On 23 July 2020 she revealed that the DoJ's former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein had personally advised that migrant parents should be prosecuted, no matter how young the children accompanying them. On 2 September 2020, Kirchgaessner reported that a senior justice department official nominated by Trump to be a federal judge had participated in the removal of a Texas prosecutor who had sounded the alarm over child separation," The Guardian reported.

The documents were released following a Freedom of Information Act request by reporter Jason Leopold of BuzzFeed News.


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