CNN disclosed on Wednesday that the Justice Department had fought a secret legal battle to obtain the email logs of one of its reporters — and that as part of the fight the government imposed a gag order on the network’s lawyers and its president, Jeff Zucker.
The news network’s disclosure came less than a week after a lawyer for The New York Times revealed that he and a handful of lawyers and executives for the newspaper had been gagged as part of a similar fight stemming from a leak investigation.
The fight for the CNN reporter’s email data began in July 2020 under the Trump administration and was resolved on Jan. 26, just after the Biden administration took office, in a deal with prosecutors under which the network turned over “a limited set of email logs,” it said. A judge recently lifted the gag order over the matter.
The disclosure was the latest involving aggressive steps the Justice Department took in leak inquiries late in the Trump administration, and the second inquiry now known to have spilled over into the early Biden administration.
The Justice Department had revealed in recent weeks that it had, during the Trump administration, successfully seized phone records for the four Times reporters, the CNN reporter and several reporters at The Washington Post as part of leak investigations. Each involved records from 2017.
In the fallout from the revelations, President Biden has directed the department to cease the practice of seizing reporters’ communications records in an attempt to identify their sources. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has scheduled a meeting with leaders of the three news organizations for Monday.
President Biden on Wednesday revoked a Trump-era executive order that sought to ban the popular apps TikTok and WeChat and replaced it with one that calls for a broader review of a number of foreign-controlled applications that could pose a security risk to Americans and their data.
The Trump order had not been carried out “in the soundest fashion,” Biden administration officials said in a call with reporters, adding that the new directive would establish “clear intelligible criteria” to evaluate national security risks posed by software applications connected to foreign governments, particularly China.
Mr. Biden’s order reflects a growing urgency among American officials, both Republican and Democrat, to aggressively counter what they see as a growing threat posed by China’s military and technology sectors. In a rare show of bipartisanship, U.S. lawmakers have also sought to reduce America’s dependence on China for supply chain technology like semiconductors, rare minerals and other equipment. On Tuesday, the Senate approved a $250 billion spending package to bolster American technology research and development.
The order is the first significant step Mr. Biden has taken to approach the saga between TikTok and the Trump administration, which tried to ban the app over national security concerns but was immediately challenged in federal court.
Analysts said the new executive order is meant to create a process that could withstand such a challenge.
The Biden administration has worked to reassess several directives Mr. Trump made to curb China’s influence, and in several cases has taken a more aggressive approach. Last week, Mr. Biden expanded a Trump-era order by barring Americans from investing in Chinese firms linked to the country’s military or engaged in selling surveillance technology.
It is unclear how effective either order will ultimately be at stopping the spread of Chinese espionage technology, and does not fully resolve the future of TikTok, a wildly popular app with 100 million American users.
James Lewis, a senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the Biden administration has shown no easing of the government’s strong stance against China. But the new executive order lays out much more precise criteria for weighing risks posed by TikTok and other companies owned by foreign adversaries like China.
“They are taking the same direction as the Trump administration but in some ways tougher, in a more orderly fashion and implemented in a good way,” Mr. Lewis said. Mr. Lewis added that Mr. Biden’s order was stronger than the Trump-era directive because “it’s coherent, not random.”
On Wednesday, administration officials would not go into specifics about the future of TikTok’s availability to American users or say whether the U.S. government would seek to compel ByteDance, which owns the app, to transfer American user data to a company based in the United States.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland defended on Wednesday recent Justice Department moves upholding Trump-era positions on controversial cases, vowing to continue to adhere to the rule of law regardless of political pressure.
“The essence of the rule of law is what I said when I accepted the nomination for attorney general,” Mr. Garland said at a budget hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee, adding that his goal was to ensure that there was “not be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans, that there not be one rule for friends and another for foes.”
Mr. Garland continued: “It is not always easy to apply that rule. “Sometimes it means that we have to make a decision about the law that we would never have made and that we strongly disagree with as a matter of policy.”
The Justice Department defended on Monday a legal position taken under the Trump administration in a case involving E. Jean Carroll, a writer who in 2019 publicly accused former President Donald J. Trump of sexually assaulting her 25 years earlier.
Mr. Trump denied the assault in an Oval Office interview and said that he could not have assaulted her because she was not his “type.” After Ms. Carroll sued him over the remarks, the Justice Department argued that Mr. Trump could not be held liable for defamation because he had made the statements as part of his official duties as president.
In the brief filed on Monday with a federal appeals court in New York, Mr. Garland’s Justice Department called Mr. Trump’s remarks “crude and disrespectful,” but said that his administration had correctly argued that he could not be sued over them.
Should the Justice Department prevail, Ms. Carroll’s lawsuit could be dismissed.
The appeal dismayed Democrats, as did another argument by the Justice Department in May when it sought to keep hidden a memo related to Mr. Barr’s determination that Mr. Trump had not illegally obstructed justice in the Russia investigation.
While the department released the first page and a half of the nine-page memo, it argued that the full document must remain out of view because it contained information that was part of the department’s decision-making process, and that such information could be lawfully kept secret.
Mr. Garland said that he was aware of the criticisms, but defended his actions.
“The job of the Justice Department in making decisions of law is not to back any administration, previous or present,” he said.
MOSCOW — A Russian court on Wednesday designated Aleksei A. Navalny’s political movement as extremist, a remarkable broadside by President Vladimir V. Putin that also sent a message to President Biden ahead of their meeting in Geneva next week: Russian domestic affairs are not up for discussion.
The court decision — almost certainly with the Kremlin’s blessing — seemed likely to push the resistance to Mr. Putin further underground, after several months in which the Russian government’s yearslong effort to suppress dissent has entered a new, more aggressive phase. Under the law, Mr. Navalny’s organizers, donors, or even social-media supporters could now be prosecuted and face prison time.
The ruling heightened the stakes of the summit in Geneva for Mr. Biden, who has promised to push back against violations of international norms by Mr. Putin. On arriving in Britain on Wednesday, Mr. Biden said, “The United States will respond in a robust and meaningful way when the Russian government engages in harmful activity.”
The Russian president has said that, while he is prepared to discuss cyberspace and…