Washington Post Correspondents’ Attempt to Seize Email Data Arrived One Day Ago

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WASHINGTON — The Justice Department searched the email records of three Washington Post reporters a day before William P. Barr stepped down as attorney general and made a final effort to identify who had told the paper about conversations between Trump campaign officials and the Russian ambassador. showing new unsealed court documents.

The December 22 request, one of Mr. Barr’s last actions in office, was part of a massive escalation by the Trump administration in the final weeks of his term in a years-long campaign to prevent classified information from leaking into the news media. The Trump Justice Department also searched the records of New York Times reporters at the time.

Biden Justice Department announced the effort – including confiscate journalists’ phone records – last month, Unsealing the mailbox. The files shed new light on what happened, including listing the day prosecutors filed for the email records warrant and identifying three Mail articles that were the subject of a leak investigation.

These articles, identified only by their publication date, apparently One in May 2017 The report reported that President Donald J. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner discussed with Russia’s ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, the possibility of using Russian diplomatic facilities as a communication back channel during the transition period.

including them June 2017 article The Obama administration’s struggles to deal with Russian election interference last year and July 2017 article He reports that Jeff Sessions, the attorney general at the time, discussed campaign issues with Mr. Kislyak last year when Mr. Sessions was a senator and a Trump campaign deputy.

All three articles were written by reporters Adam Entous, Greg Miller, and Ellen Nakashima, whom communications records researchers are trying to surreptitiously attempt. Although the Justice Department announced that it had received the phone recordings that did not require a court order, it never succeeded in obtaining the e-mail recordings.

In the 12-page application to the court requesting email records of the three reporters, the Justice Department also appears to believe that one of the Congressmen may have shared details of Mr Kislyak’s conversations with the press.

The government said Congress requested access to top secret information in 2017 as part of a congressional investigation. In the court document, the Post later twice published “information contained in confidential material submitted to elected congressional personnel.”

Times previously invested in investigators Focused on Michael Baharwas then a staff member on the House Intelligence Committee, but found no evidence to substantiate his suspicions.

The new information underscores how aggressively the Trump Justice Department has been following years of leaks to the news media. Mr Trump had forced senior officials to make leak investigations a top priority.

Since the disclosure of the attempt to confiscate and seize the rapporteurs’ communication records – Times, Mail and CNN – President Biden has announced that it will no longer allow the Department of Justice to use subpoenas and court orders to obtain such data in hunts for classified sources. Attorney General Merrick B. Wreath He is expected to send a memo to all federal prosecutors this week formally directing such a ban.

The Justice Department’s inspector general is investigating leak investigations involving efforts to retrieve records from journalists, members of Congress, and their staff.

A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment.

A magistrate this month sealed most of the cases. file from a separate leak investigation that prosecutors requested from Google the email logs of four Times reporters in 2017. A judge upheld that decision on January 5, but as with the Post investigation, prosecutors never obtained the email data.

The files show that Google did not respond to the initial court order. Prosecutors returned to the company in early February after Mr Biden took office, but Google said it would not hand over the data unless allowed to tell The Times, in accordance with a contract.

The Justice Department has allowed the company to notify several executives in the newspaper, but on the condition that they are. under gag order not to tell anyone else. The department eventually abandoned that effort and asked a judge to lift the speech ban without any file.

But Biden’s Justice Department objected to publicly disclosing the Trump Justice Department’s initial filing for Times reporters’ emails. This application would demonstrate what prosecutors had told a magistrate they were looking for – and why it was necessary to keep the investigation confidential, whose existence had apparently already been reported, and to justify orders to speak. Whether this will be made public remains subject to future litigation.

Magistrate Zia M. Faruqui’s order to unseal the Washington Post-related files shows that Biden’s Department of Justice initially objected to unsealing the application on this subject as well. However, Judge Faruqui pressed for this to be disclosed, noting that the public generally has the right to see such material from closed investigations.

In doing so, the judge referenced colorfully iconic scenes from two Harrison Ford blockbusters.

“It is not a sealed matter, as the government insists on envisioning, that it is usually ‘hidden deep in a vast, uncataloged warehouse, nailed to an obscure chest,'” the judge wrote, quoting another court opinion quoting the final scene of the 1981 film. “Raids of the Lost Ark.”

“Rather, it is frozen in carbonite, waiting to finally thaw,” said Judge Faruqui, referring to the 1980 film “The Empire Returns.”

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