U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Republican fundraiser subpoenas AP for documents related to anonymous sources

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 16, 2018
New York, New York

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue
Broidy subpoena to AP
May 16, 2018

On May 16, 2018, attorneys for Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy drew up a subpoena for documents from The Associated Press, which demanded that the news organization hand over leaked copies of Broidy’s emails, as well as documents that could identify the source who leaked Broidy’s emails to the AP. On May 22, the AP confirmed that it had received the subpoena and planned to fight it.

The subpoena is part of a civil suit that Broidy filed in federal court in California against the government of Qatar. Broidy has accused Qatar of hacking his emails and then working with a P.R. firm to leak copies of the emails to journalists at the AP and other news organizations.

On May 21, the AP published a deeply-reported investigation into Broidy’s work with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, two nations that have been locked in an escalating diplomatic feud with Qatar for more than a year. 

The AP investigation, which was “based on interviews with more than two dozen people and hundreds of pages of leaked emails between” Broidy and a business partner, reported that Broidy had lobbied Trump and other administration to adopt the kind of anti-Qatar foreign policy favored by the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and was then rewarded by the UAE government with a lucrative consulting contract.

In the same story, the AP reported that beginning in February 2018, a number of news organizations started to receive “anonymously leaked batches of Broidy’s emails and documents that had apparently been hacked.” And a lawyer for Broidy told the AP that its reporting “is based on fraudulent and fabricated documents obtained from entities with a known agenda to harm Mr. Broidy.”

In the past, both Qatar and the UAE have accused one another of hacking the other, so it’s not surprising that Broidy believes that Qatar is connected to the hack and leak of his emails.

His goal seems to be to use the subpoena to force the AP to turn over documents that implicate Qatar in the leak of his emails, which he can then use as evidence in his civil suit against the Qatari government.

An AP spokeswoman told the Freedom of the Press Foundation that the news outlet plans to fight the subpoena. The AP is expected to invoke reporter’s privilege, which protects journalists and news organizations from being forced by the government to reveal information about its confidential sources.

Lee Wolosky — the attorney at Boies, Schiller & Flexner who drew up the subpoena on Broidy’s behalf — did not respond to a request for comment. But according to Politico, Wolosky argued in a letter accompanying the subpoena that reporter’s privilege should not apply to the AP because the leaked emails were obtained illegally and information about the AP's sources are “crucial to his case.”

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