Justice Dept. Obtained Gag Order on Times Executives in Secret Fight Over Email Logs

The American authorities came upon in regards to the memo, which was mentioned to specific confidence that the legal professional common on the time, Loretta Lynch, wouldn’t let an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a non-public electronic mail server go too far. Mr. Comey was mentioned to fret that if Ms. Lynch made and introduced the choice to not cost Ms. Clinton, Russia would put out the memo to make it appear illegitimate, resulting in his unorthodox choice to announce that the F.B.I. was recommending in opposition to prices in the matter.

The Justice Department underneath then-President Donald Trump, who fired Mr. Comey and thought of him an enemy, looked for years to see whether or not it may discover proof adequate to cost him with the crime of creating unauthorized disclosures of categorised data — a push that finally got here to focus on whether or not he had something to do with The Times studying in regards to the existence of the doc Russian hackers had stolen.

The long-running leak investigation into Mr. Comey was seen inside the Justice Department as probably the most politicized and contentious, even by the requirements of a division that had been prevailed upon in a number of cases to make use of leak investigations and different insurance policies regarding ebook publication to assault former officers who criticized Mr. Trump.

Throughout final 12 months, prosecutors talked about whether or not or to not shut the leak investigation into Mr. Comey, in response to two individuals acquainted with the case, in half as a result of there appeared to be little proof to point out that the previous FBI director had shared categorised data with the press.

Last fall, division officers mentioned whether or not the investigation had run its course and prosecutors ought to draft a declination memo that may clarify why Mr. Comey wouldn’t be prosecuted, one of many individuals mentioned. But the F.B.I. and the profession prosecutors working on the case wished to maintain the investigation open, the individuals mentioned, and in January prosecutors obtained a special court order to require Google to show over knowledge on the reporters’ emails.

With Mr. Trump quickly to be out of workplace, the order was controversial amongst some inside the division, in response to two individuals with information of the case. It was seen as unusually aggressive for a case that may doubtless finish in no prices. During the transition from the Trump to the Biden administration, no less than one official wrote in a memo that the case ought to be closed, in response to an individual acquainted with the transition.

In the courtroom filings looking for to compel Google to show over logs of who was speaking with the 4 reporters who wrote that story, the Justice Department persuaded the choose that the secrecy was justified as a result of, because the choose wrote on Jan. 5, “there is reason to believe that notification of the existence of this order will seriously jeopardize the ongoing investigation, including by giving targets an opportunity to destroy or tamper with evidence.”

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