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The Trump DOJ tried to seize 3 Washington Post journalists' communications the day before Attorney General William Barr stepped down, new documents show

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US Attorney General William Barr during a meeting with state attorneys general at the White House. Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images
  • The Trump DOJ tried to obtain three journalists' records days before AG William Barr left office.

  • The three Washington Post journalists were covering Russia's influence in the 2016 election.

  • The court order was filed on December 22, 2020. Barr, a powerful Trump ally, left the next day.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Former President Donald Trump's Justice Department tried to obtain the communication records of three Washington Post journalists days before William Barr stepped down as attorney general in 2020, The Washington Post first reported on Tuesday.

Court documents unsealed on Tuesday showed that the Department of Justice wanted to find out who told the reporters about classified details related to three stories.

The first report was published in May 2017 and detailed a conversation between senior Trump advisor Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, and Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the US at the time, The Post said.

The second article, published in June 2017, reported on how the Obama administration handled Russian interference in the 2016 US election, while a month later the third report detailed leaked discussions between Kislyak and Jeff Sessions, who later became Trump's first attorney general, The Post said.

The court order was filed on December 22, 2020. William Barr, who had been a loyal Trump ally, resigned as attorney general the next day.

Jeffrey A. Rosen became the acting attorney general on December 24.

The journalists' names were redacted in the public version of the court order, but The Post said previous department records identified them as Adam Entous, Greg Miller, and Ellen Nakashima. Entous has since left The Post and moved to The New Yorker.

The order sought the email communication records of the three reporters because they were "relevant to an ongoing investigation," the filing said.

The leaked information in the three Post articles was only initially shared with members of Congress and staff, the order said.

"In furtherance of a Congressional Inquiry, in 2017, the U.S. Congress requested access to certain highly classified national defense information in the possession of the U.S. Intelligence Community," the court filing said. "Given the extreme sensitivity of this information, it was only made available to select Congressional Members and staff" in April 2017.

The Post reported in May that the DOJ had secretly pulled phone records from the three reporters and tried to obtain their email records.

Later that month, President Joe Biden told CNN he wouldn't allow the DOJ to seize phone and email records from journalists. "I will not let that happen," he said, describing it as "simply wrong."

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