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To Stop Leaks, The DOJ May Subpoena The Reporters Who Publish Them

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department might revise its rules, making it easier to subpoena reporters who publish leaks.
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To Stop Leaks, The DOJ May Subpoena The Reporters Who Publish Them

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the White House is cracking down on leakers.

"To prevent these leaks, every agency and Congress has to do better," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a press conference. "We are taking a stand. This culture of leaking must stop."

In a press conference Friday, Sessions said the Trump administration has more than triple the number of leak investigations now than what former President Barack Obama's administration had at the end of its term.

Just a day before Sessions' press conference, transcripts of President Donald Trump's conversations with leaders of Australia and Mexico in late January were published.

The Department of Justice has considered updating its policy on subpoenas for the media. That could make it easier for prosecutors to force journalists to turn over sources and information or face prosecution.

A move to broaden subpoena powers over journalists would be a reversal of the DOJ's current policy. It was updated in 2015 by then-Attorney General Eric Holder to require additional oversight if any law enforcement wanted to subpoena reporters for gathering information.

That change came after a scandal in which the department obtained phone records from Associated Press journalists. The president of the AP called it a "massive and unprecedented intrusion."

And unless it's changed, another Obama-era rule on leaks could make prosecution tough as well. An executive order prevents leakers from being charged unless their disclosures are classified or could affect national security.

President Donald Trump has been upset by the constant stream of leaks, often venting his frustrations on Twitter. He even called out Sessions specifically for not doing enough to stop the flow of information.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press issued a statement calling the possibility of changing the subpoena policy "deeply troubling." It also pushed back against the notion leaks would jeopardize national security, saying that journalists "have a long history of handling this information in a responsible way."