An employee of the Justice Department Inspector General’s office “abruptly resigned” after they were caught leaking information about President Donald Trump to the media.
The staffer is accused of leaking a closely-held draft report on the Trump administration’s family separation policy, according to numerous reports.
When employees were asked to submit sworn answers to a questionnaire regarding the unauthorized leak, the employee suddenly quit.
A DOJ Office of the Inspector General’s investigative summary said:
“The independent investigation conducted by the other Office of Inspector General concluded that a then DOJ OIG employee was responsible for sensitive, non-public information from and about the then-ongoing DOJ OIG review, including information from the draft DOJ OIG report, being provided on several occasions to various media outlets prior to completion and official public release of DOJ OIG’s final report, and that the employee did so without authorization from DOJ OIG.
“The independent investigation reviewed the DOJ OIG employee’s phone records and found that they reflected numerous and lengthy phone conversations between the then DOJ OIG employee and reporters at the media outlets during the time period in which articles were published about the then-ongoing DOJ OIG review, as well as electronic evidence that demonstrated that the then DOJ OIG employee was privy to documents referenced in the various articles.
“The independent investigation further identified phone calls between the then DOJ OIG employee and reporters at the media outlets that, in multiple instances, occurred close in time both to the then DOJ OIG employee accessing or possessing specific sensitive, non-public documents, including the draft DOJ OIG report, relating to the then ongoing DOJ OIG review and to the publication of the news articles.
“The independent investigation found that the then DOJ OIG employee’s actions violated federal ethics regulations and DOJ OIG policy.”
According to Fox News:
Fox News later learned following a Freedom of Information Act request that the investigation the employee had discussed with the media had to do with the Trump administration’s “Zero Tolerance” border crossing policy which led to mass detentions and separations of families until then-President Donald Trump called for an end to the practice.
Articles based on the draft report were published in the New York Times and NBC News.
That investigation included a review of the now-former DOJ Inspector General employee’s phone records, which “reflected numerous and lengthy phone conversations between the then DOJ OIG employee and reporters at the media outlets during the time period in which articles were published about the then-ongoing DOJ OIG review.”
The DOJ statement continues:
“Upon reporting by a media outlet that it had reviewed a draft report of the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the DOJ OIG referred for investigation to the Integrity Committee of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), as required by the Inspector General Act, the question of whether one or more DOJ OIG employees had disclosed the draft DOJ OIG report or other sensitive, non-public information about the then-ongoing DOJ OIG review to the media without authorization.
“After considering the referral, CIGIE’s Integrity Committee declined to investigate the matter as there was no allegation or information suggesting that any person covered under the Integrity Committee’s jurisdiction disclosed sensitive, non-public information to the media without authorization.
“However, the Integrity Committee agreed, at DOJ OIG’s request, to identify another Office of Inspector General of the Integrity Committee’s choosing to conduct an independent investigation of the alleged unauthorized disclosure.
Reports by NBC News and the New York Times in October 2020, about a month before the presidential election, said former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other top Justice Department officials were “a driving force” behind a series of moves in 2018 that led to thousands of children being separated from their parents or other relatives after crossing the border from Mexico into the U.S.
The reports cited a draft report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz that followed a two-year review of the so-called “zero tolerance” policy.
The policy, eventually abandoned by the Trump administration, resulted in adults accused of crossing the border illegally being prosecuted criminally even if accompanied by young children.
During the chaos prompted by the policy, U.S. officials essentially lost track of the ties between some immigrant children and their parents, leading to extreme difficulty in reuniting them. Litigation and claims for financial damages over the policy remain pending.
The disclosures in the media in the fall of 2020 prompted concern inside the department, where officials believed the leaks were intended to influence the outcome of the election, two people familiar with the matter said.
The final report was formally released by Horowitz’s office in January 2021.