GOP congressman criticizes seizure of reporter’s records

Republican Rep. Jim Jordan criticized the seizure of a New York Times reporter’s records as part of a leak investigation.

“That is not how the First Amendment operates,” he said on CNN’s “New Day” Thursday.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that the reporter, Ali Watkins, was informed in February that the Justice Department “had years of customer records and subscriber information” associated with two of her email accounts and a phone number. However, the contents of her communications were not seized.

“Ali had all her material just grabbed,” Jordan told CNN’s John Berman. “It is not supposed to work that way.”

The Justice Department announced earlier this month that a former U.S. Senate employee, James Wolfe, has been charged with making false statements to federal agents in the course of an investigation related to the unauthorized disclosure of non-public information. He has pleaded not guilty.

The indictment details Wolfe’s interactions with three other journalists, referred to only as Reporter #1, Reporter #3, and Reporter #4. However, a Justice Department official confirmed their records were not targeted as part of the investigation.

According to the Times, Watkins had previously been involved in a relationship with Wolfe that lasted three years.

The department has a media policy that dictates guidelines investigators must follow before seeking a reporter’s records. But prior notification to the reporter is not required if the Justice Department “determines that, for compelling reasons, such negotiations would pose a clear and substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation.”

The Washington Post reported last week that that Justice Department leaders were “worried that if they told Ali Watkins of their intentions, she might tip off the man, a former director of security for the Senate Intelligence Committee, or take other steps that would upend the investigation.”