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Protestors march across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan on June 19. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security monitored Black Lives Matters protests in more than 15 cities with airplanes, drones and helicopters, according to Customs and Border Protection data obtained by the New York Times.

Driving the news: The Air Force inspector general said on Thursday it plans to investigate the use of a military reconnaissance plane used to surveil demonstrations in multiple cities held in the wake of George Floyd's killing.

What they're saying: Officials at the CBP base in Grand Forks, North Dakota told the Times' Zolan Kanno-Youngs that the surveillance was "used to provide an eagle-eyed view of violent acts and arson."

  • Deployed unmanned aircraft, including a Predator drone sent to Minneapolis, were neither armed nor supplied with facial recognition software, unnamed CBP officials told the Times.
  • The aircraft "flew at a height that made it impossible to identify individuals or license plates," senior officials told the Times.
  • The CBP confirmed the Times reporting.

Details: AS350 helicopters monitored protests in 13 cities for over 168 hours, with the longest surveillance stretch at 58 hours over Detroit, the Times reports, citing data from Air and Marine Operations.

  • Aircraft filmed protests in New York City, Philadelphia, Buffalo and Dayton, Ohio along with other cities to send real-time footage to Air and Marine Operations control centers, the Times reports.

The backdrop: House Democrats on the Oversight Committee have called for the DHS to explain how it surveilled and intimidated peaceful protesters, including with drones and armed, uniformed officers.

Go deeper: House Democrats call for investigation into DEA protester surveillance

Go deeper

DOJ to send federal agents to St. Louis and Memphis

Attorney General Bill Barr. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

The Justice Department announced Thursday that it will send federal law enforcement agents to St. Louis, Mo., and Memphis, Tenn., to help stem violent crime.

Why it matters: The Trump administration's deployment expands its "Operation Legend" program as President Trump has blamed spikes of violence across the U.S. on activists' efforts to "dismantle and dissolve" local law enforcement. Democrats have accused Trump of targeting Democratic-run cities as part of his "law and order" messaging strategy following the police killing of George Floyd.

Trump set to appear at Pennsylvania GOP hearing on voter fraud claims

President Trumpat the White House on Tuesday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump is due to join his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Wednesday at a Republican-led state Senate Majority Policy Committee hearing to discuss alleged election irregularities.

Why it matters: This would be his first trip outside of the DMV since Election Day and comes shortly after GSA ascertained the results, formally signing off on a transition to President-elect Biden.

Scoop: Trump tells confidants he plans to pardon Michael Flynn

Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

President Trump has told confidants he plans to pardon his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts, two sources with direct knowledge of the discussions tell Axios.

Behind the scenes: Sources with direct knowledge of the discussions said Flynn will be part of a series of pardons that Trump issues between now and when he leaves office.