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Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Former President Trump's Justice Department in 2017 secretly obtained the phone records of three Washington Post reporters, the newspaper revealed Friday.

Between the lines: The reporters — Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller and Adam Entous — at the time were looking into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

  • They each received a letter from the DOJ earlier this week informing them that the department had been monitoring their phone calls from April 15 to July 31, 2017.

The big picture: The Post said that these types of action from the DOJ is "rare" and require approval from the attorney general.

  • "The letters do not say precisely when the reporters’ records were taken and reviewed, but a department spokesman said the decision to do so came in 2020, during the Trump administration," the Post writes. At the time, William Barr was attorney general.
  • The phone records include the numbers of the calls and how long each call lasted, but do not include what was said.
  • The letters do not specifically mention why the phone records were obtained, but during the three-month period the reporters wrote a story on how in 2016 former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) had discussed Trump's campaign with Sergey Kislyak, a Russian ambassador.

What they're saying: "We are deeply troubled by this use of government power to seek access to the communications of journalists. The Department of Justice should immediately make clear its reasons for this intrusion into the activities of reporters doing their jobs, an activity protected under the First Amendment," Washington Post executive editor Cameron Barr said.

The other side: A DOJ spokesperson told the Post the department's decision to subpoena the reporters' phone records was an investigative step needed to see who were the individuals providing the newspaper with "national defense information."

Go deeper

Exclusive: Lawmakers urge probe into DOJ's alleged racial profiling of Asians

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Nearly 100 members of Congress are urging Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the Justice Department's alleged racial profiling of Asians, according to a letter shared with Axios.

Why it matters: The case of Anming Hu, a scientist who was baselessly targeted in an espionage probe, has renewed scrutiny of the DOJ after an FBI agent admitted to falsely implicating the Chinese Canadian.

Trump's tax returns must be released to Congress, DOJ says

President Trump at the end of a rally to support Republican Senate candidates at Valdosta Regional Airport in Valdosta, Georgia on December 5, 2020. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP

The Treasury Department "must" release former President Trump's tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee, the Department of Justice said in a memo Friday.

The big picture: The DOJ memo comes after a long dispute between the committee, which first sought to obtain the former president's returns two years ago, and Trump, who fought to keep his finances private.

Updated Jul 30, 2021 - Politics & Policy

DOJ sues Texas over restrictions on undocumented migrant travel

Photo: Samuel Corum-Pool via Getty Images

The Justice Department sued Texas on Friday over Gov. Greg Abbott's (R) executive order restricting transportation of undocumented migrants.

Driving the news: The DOJ is asking a federal judge to block the order immediately. It's the latest clash between Texas and President Biden's Justice Department.