STELTER: About last year. Did you know at that time when Ali was writing for “BuzzFeed” that she was in a relationship with the Senate staffer?
SMITH: You know, I’m — I think I shouldn’t — it’s not appropriate for me to comment at all on a confidential conversation with the journalist. But as you said, Ms. Watkins told “The New York Times” that she had been transparent with her employers. I would also say this by the way is a conversation the Department of Justice wants us to be having.
STELTER: You think they want us to focus on the romantic relationship and whether it’s appropriate for a reporter to be dating a source?
SMITH: I don’t see why else — I don’t see why else there are paragraphs of that in an indictment about a guy who allegedly lied to the FBI. They have — his text messages apparently from his phone that appear to confirm that he lied — in their view, he lied to the FBI. I think they would love to have a conversation, you know, about a reporter’s personal life.
And certainly, they have launched a million smears on social media. My social media is just full of like disgusting smears of a reporter right now, rather than a conversation about what they were doing, what impelled them to use this kind of last-resort tool of covertly spying on journalists.
STELTER: But is it appropriate for a reporter to date a source?
SMITH: You’re making an assumption about who Ms. Watkins source was in the story that by the way isn’t asserted in the indictment and, yes—
STELTER: OK. Now, now a year’s worth of phone records get seized. Not the calls, not the content of the calls but the records of who she was calling and when.
SMITH: And emailing.