The deputy attorney general on Sunday said a crackdown on the release of classified information doesn’t mean that the Department of Justice is going after “journalists for doing their jobs.”
“The attorney general has been very clear that we’re after the leakers, not the journalists,” Rod Rosenstein said on Fox News Sunday.
“We’re after the people who are committing crimes.”
Reminded that President Trump – whose administration has been bedeviled by leaks – once reportedly asked ousted FBI director James Comey to imprison reporters who release classified information, Rosenstein said, “We don’t prosecute journalists for doing their jobs.”
“We look at the facts and circumstances of each case and we determine whether somebody has committed a crime and whether it’s appropriate to hold them accountable,” Rosenstein said on Fox.
And if those leaking classified information turn out to be White House officials or members of Congress, Rosenstein said they’d be fair game.
“What we need to look at is the facts and circumstances. What was the potential harm caused by the leak and what were the circumstances. That’s more important to us than who it is who is the leaker,” he said.
“If we identify somebody – no matter what their position is – if they violated the law and that case warrants prosecution, we’ll prosecute.”
Asked by host Chris Wallace if reporters who publish classified information can be prosecuted, Rosenstein said that’s not the intent of the DOJ.
“Generally speaking, reporters who publish information are not committing a crime,” he said. “There might be a circumstance where they do. I haven’t seen any of those to date. …
In the event that there were a case where a reporter is purposely violating the law, they might be a suspect as well. But that’s not our goal here. Our goal is to prevent the leaks.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last Friday that the government would go after reporters and their sources who release classified information and could even subpoena journalists.
âWe respect the important role that the press plays, and weâll give them respect, but it is not unlimited,â Sessions said. âThey cannot place lives at risk with impunity. We must
balance the pressâs role with protecting our national security and the lives of those who serve in the intelligence community, the armed forces and all law-abiding Americans.â
His warning came a day after the Washington Post published transcripts of confidential phone calls Trump made in January to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.