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Trump officials seized Democratic records in the hunt for leaks


Because Mr Benvenuto was involved in the leak investigation, the FBI interviewed Michael Bahar, a former House Intelligence Committee employee who had gone into a private practice in May 2017 for charges.

Prosecutors also redoubled their efforts to find out who leaked material related to Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser. Details of talks he had with the then Russian Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak at the end of 2016 appeared in news reports in early 2017 and ultimately helped initiate both his impeachment and the federal indictment against him. The discussions were also classified as top secret because the FBI used a court-approved secret wiretap on Mr. Kislyak to monitor them.

But John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence and close ally of Mr Trump, appeared to damage the leak investigation in May 2020 when he released the transcripts of the calls. The authorized disclosure would have made it difficult for prosecutors to argue that the news violated national security.

Separately, one of the prosecutors who directed Mr. Barr to re-investigate the FBI’s criminal case against Mr. Flynn interviewed at least one law enforcement officer in the leak investigation after the transcripts were released, a move familiar with the matter described as politically charged .

The bi-weekly updates on leak investigations between top officials continued. Julie Edelstein, assistant director of counterintelligence and export control, and Matt Blue, director of the department’s counter-terrorism division, shared their progress with John C. Demers, director of the National Security Division, and Seth DuCharme, an assistant attorney general . Mr. Benvenuto participated in briefings with Mr. Barr.

Mr Demers, Mrs Edelstein, Mr Blue and Mr Benvenuto are still in the Justice Department. Their continued presence and leadership appear to ensure that those appointed by Mr Biden, including Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, have a full understanding of the investigation.

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