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Justice Department watchdog to investigate Trump media leak hunt

Michael Horowitz, inspector general for the Justice Department, testifies before the Senate judiciary committee on December 11, 2019. He said Friday he has started an investigation into the Justice Departments secretly taking data from Congress mebers and the media. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Michael Horowitz, inspector general for the Justice Department, testifies before the Senate judiciary committee on December 11, 2019. He said Friday he has started an investigation into the Justice Departments secretly taking data from Congress mebers and the media. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

June 12 (UPI) -- The inspector general of the Justice Department has opened an investigation into what led federal prosecutors to take data of House Democrats and reporters under the Trump administration as they hunted for media leakers.

The inquiry, announced Friday, was sparked by news reports that former President Donald Trump's Justice Department opened investigations targeting leakers to news agencies that included The Washington Post, The New York Times and CNN. Those organizations were placed on gag orders in 2017 and 2018.

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Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz told USA Today his agency would look beyond subpoenas to "other legal authorities [used] to obtain communication records ... in connection with recent investigations of alleged unauthorized disclosures of information to the media by government officials."

Horowitz said the agency will look at the Justice Department's compliance "with applicable DOJ policies and procedures and whether any such uses or the investigations, were based upon improper considerations. If circumstances warrant, the OIG will consider other issues that may arise during the review."

The information targeted in those leaks dealt with the probes involving former FBI Director James Coney and his ex-deputy, Andrew McCabe.

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Senate Democrats in the meantime are demanding former attorney generals Jeff Sessions and William Barr testify about the secretly seizing data from fellow colleagues. They charged that that including members of Congress in Trump's leak hunt amounted to an abuse of power by that administration.

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