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Trump administration sought CNN reporter's records in leak probe, months-long court battle

CNN says lead attorney was under Justice Department gag order to not disclose request, court proceedings.

Updated: June 10, 2021 - 10:00am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The Trump administration spent half a year attempting to obtain the email records of a CNN Pentagon reporter to learn who was leaking government information, according to the cable network.

CNN said Wednesday the Justice Department under President Trump pursued reporter Barbara Starr's records starting in July 2020 when then-Attorney General William Barr demanded email logs from June and July 2017.

CNN said the department at the time put lead attorney David Vigilante under a gag order, strictly limiting who he could tell about the investigation, with the consequence of possible contempt in court charges or criminal prosecution.

The Barr purportedly sough the names of people and dates of emails sent to and from Starr.

In September 2020, CNN went to court with the department to fight to protect Starr's records and was able to reach a settlement in January of this year  to narrow the disclosure. CNN turned over some of the logs and the gag order was lifted as a a result of the deal, CNN also said.

In May, the department notified reporters from CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times that it had seized journalists' phones and email records.

The disclosure of the gag order and the months-long court battle follows the department saying Saturday it was no longer seeking records from reporters, according to The Hill.