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Tag: Justice Department

Trump’s DOJ Secretly Seized Phone Records from New York Times Reporters

court

By Steve Neavling

President Trump’s Justice Department admitted it secretly seized phone records from four reporters for The New York Times as part of a leak investigation.  

It’s the third time in the past month that federal authorities disclosed they had surveilled journalists in an attempt to identify sources for national security stories during Trump’s presidency.

The Times reported Wednesday that the Justice Department had informed the newspaper of the seizure of phone records and secured a court order to take logs of the reporters’ emails.

The leak investigation occurred over a nearly four-month period in 2017. 

The Justice Department also disclosed that it had seized the phone logs of reporters for The Washington Post and the phone and email logs for a CNN reporter. 

“Seizing the phone records of journalists profoundly undermines press freedom,” Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, said in a statement. “It threatens to silence the sources we depend on to provide the public with essential information about what the government is doing.”

The Justice Department did not identify the stories that were being investigated. But based on the reporters and timing of the investigation, The Times believes the probe was related to an April 22, 2017 article about then FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the 2016 presidential election investigation.

Senate Confirms Kristen Clarke As First Black Woman to Lead DOJ’s Civil Rights Division

Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney for the the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Photo: Twitter

By Steve Neavling

Kristen Clarke on Tuesday became the first Black woman to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, overcoming strong opposition from Republicans.

The Senate voted 51-48 to confirm Clarke, a longtime civil rights attorney and Justice Department veteran. Sen. Susan Collins was the lone Republican to vote for Clarke’s confirmation. 

As assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, Clarke will play a prominent role in cracking down on police brutality and enforcing voting rights laws and federal discrimination laws.

Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, received her law degree from Columbia University. She later prosecuted civil rights cases for the Justice Department before running the New York State Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau. In 2016, she became president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. 

Clarke often criticized President Trump’s administration for failing to enforce civil rights laws. 

Republicans opposed Clarke, saying she was too political and previously supported defunding the police.

Maskless DOJ Employees Won’t Have to Prove Vaccination Status, Memo Says

Justice Department employees won’t have to prove they were vaccinated if they decide to enter the agency’s buildings without a mask. 

In a memo obtained by The Hill, managers were instructed not to ask employees about their vaccination status.

The memo comes just after vaccinated federal employees were given permission to go inside the agency’s buildings without a mask following new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“Supervisors and managers should not ask about an employee’s vaccination status or use information about an employee’s vaccination status to make decisions about how and when employees will report to a workplace instead of teleworking,” the DOJ told employees in a Friday email. 

The new policy is in stark contrast to the DOJ’s guidance in February that gave employers permission to inquire about their employees’ vaccination status. 

The email on Friday said employees have the option to continue wearing masks. 

“As we go forward, we ask everyone to respect the wishes of our colleagues and visitors and ensure that anyone who chooses to continue wearing a mask while in department buildings and facilities may continue to do so without interference,” DOJ said. 

White Supremacy Is Greatest Threat to U.S., Garland, Mayorkas Testify

Homeland Security Director Alejandro Mayorkas.

By Steve Neavling

The heads of the Justice Department and Homeland Security warned senators Wednesday that white supremacy is the most serious threat facing the U.S. 

In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the departments are cracking down on violent extremism.

“The department is taking a new approach to addressing domestic violent extremism, both internally and externally,” Mayorkas said. 

Garland said the Jan. 6 insurrection was “an attempt to interfere with the fundamental element of our democracy, a peaceful transfer of power.”

“I have not seen a more dangerous threat to democracy than the invasion of the Capitol,” Garland said. 

He added, “We will use every appropriate tool at our disposal to deter and disrupt such criminal acts and to bring their perpetrators to justice.”

The Justice Department has charged more than 430 people in connection to the deadly riot. 

Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy called the threat “uniquely dangerous” in his opening remarks. 

“Attacks and plots by domestic extremists are at historic highs, with the majority of them being planned by those on the far right espousing white supremacist and related ideologies,” Leahy said. “In 2020 alone, white nationalists and like-minded extremists conducted 67% of terrorist plots and attacks in the United States. We cannot deny we are facing a class of criminals who feel more emboldened than ever.”

Read Garland’s full comments here.

Judge Accuses Barr of Misleading Public about Special Counsel Investigation of Trump

Attorney General William Barr, via Justice Department.

By Steve Neavling

A federal judge accused former Attorney General William Barr of deceiving the court and Congress public about a Justice Department memo clearing former President Trump of potential charges following the special counsel investigation.

In a blistering decision, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered the release of the memo to a government transparency group that had requested it under the Freedom of Information Act, The New York Times reports

The Justice Department had argued that the memo was exempt from FOIA because it consisted of private legal advice that helped Barr decide whether Trump should be prosecuted.

But Jackson, who reviewed the unreacted memo, said that Barr and his aides had already decided Trump would not be prosecuted before Barr even reviewed the written advice. 

“The fact that he would not be prosecuted was a given,” Jackson wrote of Trump.

Jackson also accused Barr of misleading the public about the 448-page special counsel report. 

“The attorney general’s characterization of what he’d hardly had time to skim, much less study closely, prompted an immediate reaction, as politicians and pundits took to their microphones and Twitter feeds to decry what they feared was an attempt to hide the ball,” Jackson wrote.

DOJ Releases Video of Rioters Attacking Capitol Police Officer Sicnkick

Alex Gakos/Shutterstock.com

By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department released videos showing rioters attacking Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick with a chemical spray during the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

Sicknick, who was trying to fend off rioters at the U.S. Capitol, died the day after the attack. He had two strokes, and his death was deemed “natural.” 

The videos are being used as evidence in the case against two men accused of assaulting Sicknick and other officers. 

The videos includes surveillance and body camera footage taken during the siege. 

Media outlets were given access to the videos, which still aren’t available for broadcasting. 

The Justice Department recently said it anticipates charging more than 500 people in connection with the riot.

The riot led to the deaths of five people, and more than 130 officers were injured. 

DOJ Expects to Charge More Than 500 Alleged Insurrectionists in Jan. 6 Riot

Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo via Shutterstock.

By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department anticipates charging more than 500 people in connection with the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, making it one of the largest investigations in American history, according to a recent court filing.  

“Over 400 individuals have been charged in connection with the Capitol attack,” federal prosecutors said in a court filing last week, Reuters reports. “The investigation continues and the government expects that at least one hundred additional individuals will be charged.”

The disclosure comes as the Justice Department asks judges to postpone deadlines for future prosecutions. 

“The investigation and prosecution of the Capitol attack will likely be one of the largest in American history, both in terms of the number of defendants prosecuted and the nature and volume of the evidence,” the court filings stated.

The riot led to the deaths of five people, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, and more than 130 officers were injured. 

U.S. Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey called the siege an act of terrorism in a case involving Charles Donohue, a leader of the Proud Boys extremists group. 

“The acts alleged in the indictment would meet, in my view, the statutory definition of a federal crime of terrorism,” Harvey said.

Of those arrested so far, more than 40 are members or associates of right-wing extremists groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. 

Senate Confirms Lisa Monaco as President Biden’s Deputy Attorney General

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco

By Steve Neavling

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed President Biden’s nominee, Lisa Monaco, as deputy attorney general, the top two spot at the Justice Department. 

Monaco, 53, who served as assistant attorney general for national security and White House homeland security and counterterrorism adviser under President Obama, was confirmed in a 98-2 vote. 

Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul voted against confirmation. 

Monaco was among Obama’s potential nominees for FBI director.

As deputy attorney general, Monaco will oversee the Justice Department’s operations and supervise the FBI and Bureau of Prisons. 

Monaco is known as a consensus-builder with experience on cyber issues. 

Biden’s pick for associate attorney general, Vanita Gupta, could be confirmed this week.