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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Justice Department argues attorney-client privilege does not apply to reporters’ requests for access to email accounts

Attorney-client privilege still exists for attorney communications, the Trump administration argued on Monday in another step toward battling reporters’ access to administration secrets.

It is not yet clear how strongly the administration’s position will be sustained by a federal appeals court, and whether the Justice Department might shift tactics and try to obtain the emails from CNN by subpoena.

But the statement by two Justice Department officials in defense of President Trump’s executive order on Jan. 28 effectively prevented CNN’s lawyers from arguing their case in court. Their argument, it appeared, rested on the absence of any “guaranteed interest or harm” from news organizations seeking access to such communications.

The Justice Department, when it moved the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, argued that it was not possible for a reporter to seek access to a client’s email account, because such accounts are not routinely overseen by the courts and are often password-protected.

It is not possible to review someone’s entire email, even without a subpoena, if they have locked, password-protected accounts, the Justice Department argued.

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