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Trump administration mulls media subpoenas as part of leaks crackdown

080417 DOJ reviewing press as part of leaks probe pic
Jeff Sessions warned government leakers that they are aggressively being investigated and will be prosecuted. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The Trump administration is looking into ways to more aggressively subpoena journalists as part of its effort to crack down on leaks of classified information from the government.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that review is taking place in an announcement he used to warn government leakers that they are aggressively being investigated and will be prosecuted.

"I have listened to career investigators and prosecutors about how to most successfully investigate and prosecute these matters," Sessions said.

"At their suggestion, one of the things we are doing is reviewing policies affecting media subpoenas," he added. "We respect the important role that the press plays and will give them respect, but it is not unlimited."

"They cannot place lives at risk with impunity," he said. "We must balance their role with protecting our national security and the lives of those who serve in our intelligence community, the armed forces, and all law abiding Americans."

After his prepared remarks, Sessions ignored questions on if this meant the Justice Department will jail journalists.

Following his remarks, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told reporters that the review of subpoena policy is part of a broader "fresh look."

"We're responding to issues that have been raised by career prosecutors and agents," as it comes to investigating leaks of classified information that are prosecutable, he said.

Rosenstein noted that there are appropriate channels for whistleblowers to go through but "leaks to the media are not whistleblowing."

Rosenstein declined to say if the new leak crackdowns stem from pressure from the White House. But the announcement came just a day after transcripts of calls President Trump had with two foreign leaders were leaked to and published by the Washington Post.

Trump had said he wanted Sessions to act on leaks sooner rather than later.

Rosenstein revealed he has a meeting with the News Media Dialogue Group scheduled for next week to "consult" with its members on the possible changes. That group was created by the Justice Department under former President Barack Obama.

In January 2015, the Justice Department changed its internal guidelines for issuing subpoenas and search warrants to journalists after urging from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and other news media members.

Then-Attorney General Eric Holder had first ordered a review of the department's media guidelines in 2013.