Attorney General holds meeting with publishers targeted in leaks probe

The Robert F. Kennedy U.S. Department of Justice building in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Ken Lund, Flickr Creative Commons)

United States Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday held an off-the-record meeting with key executives at several national news organizations who were the target of a widespread Department of Justice probe that attempted to learn the real-world identity of anonymous sources used by the outlets.

The meeting was described as “positive” by a lawyer representing the New York Times, one of several news outlets in attendance, who added that the focus of the meeting was the Justice Department’s decision to obtain records related to the communications of its journalists during the Trump administration.

Arthur “A. G.” Sulzberger, the publisher of the Times, was also present at the meeting, as were executives and attorneys from CNN and the Washington Post.

“In today’s meeting, we once again sought a full accounting of what happened and requested that the Department of Justice codify that it will no longer seize journalists’ records during leak investigations,” Sulzberger said in a statement. “We were encouraged by Attorney General Garland’s statements, but we will continue to push until our concerns are addressed.”

While the meeting was off the record, an agreement between the executives in attendance and Garland held that the news organizations were allowed to report on their concerns but were precluded from disclosing the attorney general’s response.

Earlier in the day, Garland affirmed the Justice Department would launch an internal investigation into a report that its staff obtained through legal means the communication records of a number of federal lawmakers.

The attorney general’s deputy, Lisa Monaco, was said to already be working on the investigation, with a focus on strengthening the Justice Department’s policies regarding that matter and the one concerning the collection of records from accounts belonging to journalists.

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