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CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, Ga. Photo: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

New details emerged Wednesday about the Trump administration's months-long battle with CNN to obtain the email records of a reporter, which included putting a CNN general counsel under a gag order, the network reported.

Why it matters: The details reveal the extreme lengths the Trump Department of Justice took to keep its pursuit to gain access to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr's emails cloaked in secrecy.

Details: CNN's general counsel David Vigilante was sent a secret order issued by a federal magistrate judge on July 17, 2020, ordering CNN to produce records of Starr's emails that were sent between June and July 2017.

  • Vigilante was barred "from sharing any details about the government's efforts with anyone beyond the network's president, top attorneys at CNN's corporate parent and attorneys at an outside law firm," CNN reported.
  • "I've never encountered a situation like this," Vigilante said this week, per CNN. "I felt like there was a sword of Damocles over me for the year."
  • A secret court battle continued for months, per CNN.

The big picture: Starr was made aware of the DOJ's efforts to gain access to her communications for the first time in May 2021.

  • About two weeks earlier, it was revealed that the DOJ under former President Trump also obtained phone records of three Washington Post reporters in 2017.
  • It was later reported the Trump DOJ secretly seized the phone records of four New York Times reporters.
  • The Justice Department under President Biden has said it will no longer secretly seize reporters' records in leak investigations.

Go deeper

Updated Jun 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden's DOJ defends Trump in E. Jean Carroll's defamation lawsuit

Combination images of former President Trump and E. Jean Carroll. Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images/Eva Deitch for The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Biden's Department of Justice indicated in a court filing Monday night that it's continuing with the DOJ's defense of former President Trump in a defamation lawsuit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll.

Why it matters: When President Biden was a presidential candidate last year, he criticized the DOJ's highly unusual move to intervene and replace Trump's private lawyers with attorneys from the department, per the New York Times.

Democrats urge DOJ not to defend Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) in the Rayburn House Office Building on June 4. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland Wednesday demanded that the Department of Justice reverse its decision to continue defending former President Trump in a defamation lawsuit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll.

Why it matters: The members said the continuation "seems profoundly misguided" and requested that the department provide an explanation for its decision.

Updated Jun 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Obama slams Republicans for embracing election conspiracy theories

Former President Obama during a rally in Flint, Michigan, last December. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Former President Obama in an interview with CNN broadcast Monday criticized "large portions of Congress" for "going along with the falsehood that there were problems" with the 2020 election.

Driving the news: Obama noted to CNN's Anderson Cooper that Republicans spoke out against former President Trump following the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, but then "poof, suddenly everybody was back in line."