Rep. Trey Gowdy just made the case for prosecuting reporters who publish leaks

Rep. Trey Gowdy just made the case for prosecuting reporters who publish leaks
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

On Monday Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) grilled FBI Director James Comey about the newly revealed investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. But Gowdy was less concerned with whether or not President Donald Trump was compromised by a foreign power and more concerned with whether or not the government can jail journalists for reporting on it.

"Is there an exception in the law for reporters who want to break a story?" Gowdy asked Comey, referring to United States law that prohibits leaking classified information. 

There is, in fact, an exception in the law for journalists who publish classified information, found in the First Amendment, which expressly prohibits any action abridging freedom of the press.

Journalists' longstanding right to report leaked information and protect their sources has been under attack from the nation's top law enforcement officials for some time — including the case of New York Times reporter James Risen, who fought a seven-year legal battle to protect the identity of his source.

The implications of Gowdy's question go much further, suggesting that the government could not only force reporters to reveal their sources, but could actually jail journalists themselves for publishing leaked information.

Comey declined to answer Gowdy's loaded question, saying, "that's a question I know the Department of Justice has struggled with from administration through administration."

Journalists and insiders on Twitter were quick to respond.

Gowdy's question was one of several Republican attempts to shift the focus of Congress' hearing about the FBI's Russia investigation to the issue of government leaks. You can follow Mic's liveblog of the hearing here.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Andrew Joyce

I cover politics and policy.

MORE FROM

Sean Spicer said he resigned to avoid having “too many cooks in the kitchen”

Sean Spicer said he wanted to give new communications director Anthony Scaramucci a "clean slate."

Report: Jeff Sessions talked about matters related to the Trump campaign with Russian ambassador

Intercepted conversations suggest Sessions may have spoken about campaign-related issues, despite denying that was the case.

Obamacare repeal bill dealt yet another possibly fatal blow by Senate parliamentarian

Republicans will need to find 60 votes in support of their Obamacare repeal bill, or else strip it of abortion restrictions and a provision that defunds Planned Parenthood.

Don’t cry for Sean Spicer. He knew what he was doing when he took a job working for Donald Trump.

At the end of the day, the former press secretary took a job telling lies in support of a terrible president. Next, he'll probably take a more lucrative one and continue to defend him.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders named White House press secretary after Sean Spicer’s resignation

The shakeup in the White House press shop comes just six months and a day since Donald Trump was sworn in.

3 things to know about Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director

Scaramucci is a former hedge fund manager who was named Yahoo Finance's 2016 "Wall Streeter of the Year."

Sean Spicer said he resigned to avoid having “too many cooks in the kitchen”

Sean Spicer said he wanted to give new communications director Anthony Scaramucci a "clean slate."

Report: Jeff Sessions talked about matters related to the Trump campaign with Russian ambassador

Intercepted conversations suggest Sessions may have spoken about campaign-related issues, despite denying that was the case.

Obamacare repeal bill dealt yet another possibly fatal blow by Senate parliamentarian

Republicans will need to find 60 votes in support of their Obamacare repeal bill, or else strip it of abortion restrictions and a provision that defunds Planned Parenthood.

Don’t cry for Sean Spicer. He knew what he was doing when he took a job working for Donald Trump.

At the end of the day, the former press secretary took a job telling lies in support of a terrible president. Next, he'll probably take a more lucrative one and continue to defend him.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders named White House press secretary after Sean Spicer’s resignation

The shakeup in the White House press shop comes just six months and a day since Donald Trump was sworn in.

3 things to know about Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director

Scaramucci is a former hedge fund manager who was named Yahoo Finance's 2016 "Wall Streeter of the Year."