Once Barr got around to answering the question, he said, “I think that, you know, I know there are guidelines in place. And I can conceive of situations where, you know, as a last resort and where a news organization has run through a red flag or something like that, knows that they’re putting out stuff that will hurt the country — there could be a situation where someone could be held in contempt."
At that point, Klobuchar noted that then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had “said he was going to look at potentially changing those rules at some point, so I’d like you to respond in writing to this,” said Klobuchar. Barr nodded.
Left unsaid in this exchange was the disposition of President Trump on the question of jailing journalists. He’s for it. ″They spend a couple days in jail, make a new friend, and they are ready to talk,” Trump told then-FBI Director James B. Comey, according to a memo written by the latter. The president was cracking wise about how to get the media to out the sources of leaked information.
There things stood until the Trump administration came to town. Sessions declared in August 2017 that the Justice Department was reviewing the guidelines on media subpoenas. Considering that Sessions also indicated that his Justice Department had more than tripled the number of leak investigations from the Obama administration, which tallied a record number of leak prosecutions, the pledge to take a fresh look at the guidelines unsettled First Amendment advocates and, apparently, Klobuchar herself, who called Sessions’s guidelines-review pledge “very concerning.”
As is Barr’s failure to mount an affirmative defense of journalism in response to Klobuchar.