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Why the DOJ has been investigating Washington Post reporters

A sign hangs on the Washington Post building Sept. 2, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Justice Department under William Barr was on a leak hunt, which included monitoring contacts of Washington Post reporters. David Fahrenthold, a reporter at the Washington Post and weekly guest of Seattle’s Morning News, is not being investigated himself, but has some insight into what’s happening.

Fahrenthold: Biden is fact-checked, he just ‘doesn’t lie as much as Trump’

“They were focused on three reporters who had been covering the Trump Russia connections back in 2017,” Fahrenthold said.

“We just learned about it a few days ago,” he explained. “The current Justice Department sent the Washington Post reporters notices saying that in 2020, under Attorney General Barr, the Justice Department had gotten permission from a judge to look at phone records of these Post reporters. And had also gotten permission look at email records, although apparently they didn’t actually use the permission to look at email.”

Fahrenthold says it’s unclear if the current Justice Department is still investigating and he is not sure what the status of the investigation is now.

The letter the Post got didn’t explicitly say what it’s concerning, but Fahrenthold says there are some clues when you look at the timing.

“If you look at the timing of the searches, they wanted phone records from certain dates in 2017,” he said. “And it seemed like it encompassed the beginning of the Trump administration when, if you remember, there was a scoop every 10 minutes about the Trump administration’s contact with Russia — Michael Flynn talking to the Russians, Trump talking to the Russians in the Oval Office.”

“I think they were trying to figure out who was leaking the news about those contacts with Russia to the Post,” he added.

Fahrenthold noted, however, that there are only a few people who had the knowledge to leak that information, and the important thing is it all proved to be true.

“At the time, there was all this denial, and this is wrong, it’s all fake news. Trump even fired … Mike Flynn, his national security adviser, over some of the things that we revealed,” Fahrenthold said. “So yeah, they’re trying to figure out who leaked it. I don’t know if they did or not.”

“If you remember, last year, there was a sort of a counter investigation — Trump had empowered the U.S. Attorney in Connecticut to go look at the origins of the Russia investigation to figure out if anybody had broken any laws,” he added. “That investigation I think has not concluded, but hasn’t charged anybody yet. And I wonder if this was perhaps somehow related to that.”

For more on the vote to remove Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership position, and the recount in Arizona, listen the full interview with Fahrenthold online here.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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