Associated Press President Gary Pruitt said Sunday the Justice Department sent a strong – and negative- message to future sources that the government would go after them if they spoke to the press. It’s a move Pruitt called not only unconstitutional, but said it damaged the ideal of a free press in the country.

“It will hurt,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “We’re already seeing some impact. Officials are saying they’re reluctant to talk.”

The Justice Department sought phone records for a two-month period from more than 20 phone lines in four bureaus,including Washington and New York.

“Their rules require them to come to us first,” Pruitt said.

But the Justice Department maintains that telling the AP would have posed a threat to their investigation.

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