Politicization of the Justice Department

President Trump has repeatedly and publicly called for the Justice Department and the FBI to investigate his perceived enemies — and in doing so, he's crossed a longstanding line against politicizing our nation's law enforcement agencies.

Since taking office President Trump has regularly called upon the Justice Department to investigate individuals he perceives as political opponents, especially his 2016 general election opponent Hillary Clinton, senior officials within the FBI, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Since his acquittal by the Senate in the impeachment trial, the president has exerted further political pressure on the department, including having expressed his displeasure at sentencing recommendations from prosecutors in the case against his associate Roger Stone — complaints that were apparently answered by Justice Department leadership’s intervention in the case, which was in turn praised by the president.

Similar tweets go back to 2017, with Trump having called on the Justice Department to open particular investigations on several occasions.

Former FBI Director James Comey also testified that Trump asked him for a pledge of loyalty and then requested that Comey drop the investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn — and after Comey refused both requests, he was fired.

Troublingly, it appears that the Justice Department is allowing itself to be pressured by Trump’s demands. In November 2017, then–Attorney General Jeff Sessions informed members of Congress that he was considering appointing a second special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton’s alleged role in approving the sale of a uranium company to a Russian state company. In January 2018, after yet another round of tweets from Trump, the Daily Beast reported that Justice Department officials had agreed to take a “fresh look” at Clinton’s use of a private email server. Two years later, in January 2020, the department ended the investigation, conceding nothing of consequence was found.

There also appears to be consequences for officials who do not follow Trump’s bidding. In February 2020, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie Liu resigned from the Treasury Department after Trump withdrew her nomination to serve as undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes. News reports suggest that Liu’s resignation and revoked nomination were related to Trump’s dissatisfaction with her work as U.S. attorney — specifically, Liu’s perceived lack of involvement in politically sensitive investigations, including the cases of Trump ally Roger Stone and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

Liu’s resignation occurred following the surprise reversal of Justice Department sentencing recommendations in the Stone case, a reversal that prompted the withdrawal from the case of multiple career prosecutors. In May, another stunning reversal occurred, with the Justice Department said it would be dropping its case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. The motion to dismiss the charges was signed by interim U.S. Attorney for the District Timothy Shea, and raised serious questions about political interference at the Justice Department as well as about the involvement of Attorney General Barr.

As the president attempts to use his power to use his power to have his enemies investigated, we’re seeking answers from the Department of Justice.

Updates

Records Highlight Difference in Trump Administration’s Response to Racial Justice Protests and Attack on Capitol

January 19, 2021
American Oversight obtained documents that shed light on the aggressive response to protests as well as the lack of coordination between federal and local officials regarding the politicized Operation Legend program.

American Oversight Obtains Attorney General Barr Calendars and Phone Logs from 2019 and 2020

December 16, 2020
Records obtained in response to an American Oversight FOIA suit show Barr frequently met with President Trump’s most vocal congressional allies, including while impeachment proceedings against Trump gained steam.

American Oversight Statement: Barr Appoints Durham as Special Counsel

December 2, 2020
“Barr is salting the earth and attempting to guarantee that the hyper-politicization of the Justice Department outlives the administration. This move undermines the credibility of future special counsels,” said American Oversight’s Austin Evers.

News Roundup: Out of Control

October 30, 2020
The pandemic continues to hit new case records, and the Trump administration is finding new ways to flout longstanding ethics requirements.

News Roundup: White Nationalism, Voter Suppression, and Trump’s Taxes

October 1, 2020
We’ve known about the administration’s cozy relationship with white nationalists, and that fear-mongering over “voter fraud” was a deterrent to voting. But this week’s news still drove those points home.

New Details About Roger Stone Sentencing Change

September 30, 2020
Newly released documents shed more light on the highly controversial intervention by Attorney General William Barr into the case of one of the president’s longtime associates.

News Roundup: Behind the Trump Administration’s Supreme Court Nominations

September 25, 2020
It’s hard to overstate just how grave the current political situation is.

Investigations Update: Operation Legend, Crossfire Hurricane, and the Rush for a Coronavirus Vaccine

September 1, 2020
See the latest in our investigations into the Trump administration’s politicized Operation Legend, the rush for school reopenings and a Covid-19 vaccine, and partisan FBI responses to congressional requests.

Investigations Update: Attorney General Barr’s Conduct, Airline Industry Influence, and Trump’s Suggestion to Postpone the Election

August 25, 2020
See the latest in our investigations into William Barr’s politicization of the Justice Department and industry’s influence over pandemic relief fund allocation.

American Oversight Sues for Records of Complaints About Barr’s Conduct

August 25, 2020
Attorney General William Barr has exhibited a troubling pattern of serving the president’s political interests over those of the American people.

News Roundup: The Levers of Power

August 6, 2020
Americans may have long taken for granted the reliability of the national mail service and the accuracy of the decennial census. But it seems the Trump administration is doing its best to make sure we won’t do so again.

News Roundup: Neither Rain Nor Snow Nor … Trump’s Political Interference

July 30, 2020
Trump’s antagonistic stance toward the Postal Service not only endangers the delivery of mail; it also threatens to undermine confidence in the election.

News Roundup: Transparency in Hospital Data, and Barr’s Meetings with Giuliani and Gowdy

July 17, 2020
The ongoing sidelining of science is especially harmful when it is accompanied by efforts to control public information.

Investigations Update: Militarization of Police, Covid-19 in Migrant Detention Centers, and Barr’s Political Interference

July 14, 2020
Here’s a look at the investigations our team has been pursuing through public records requests in the last week.

News Roundup: William Barr, the President’s Personal Lawyer

June 26, 2020
Each week brings a new example of how Barr has acted not as the nation's chief law enforcement officer, but as the president's personal lawyer serving Trump's political interests.

American Oversight’s Investigations into Trump’s Foreign Policy, and Five Key Takeaways from John Bolton’s Book

June 26, 2020
John Bolton's new book has brought renewed attention to a number of President Trump's corrupt foreign policy actions. Here's what we're still investigating.

News Roundup: The Administration’s Failure to Confront Two National Crises

June 19, 2020
The Trump administration's responses to the deadly coronavirus pandemic and to nationwide protests against systemic racism in law enforcement have been both harmful and insufficient.

News Roundup: Georgia’s Disastrous Election, the Administration’s Alarming Protest Response, and Barr’s Troubling Tenure

June 12, 2020
As stirring protests against police brutality gripped the nation’s attention and as the coronavirus continued its tragic spread through multiple states, Georgia held a chaotic primary election.

American Oversight Sues Justice Department for Attorney General Barr Records

June 11, 2020
For nearly a year and a half, the attorney general has abetted Trump’s attempts to politicize the Justice Department. We're suing to shed light on his tenure in office.

News Roundup: A Somber Week After Memorial Day

May 29, 2020
As states across the country enter various phases of “reopening,” sobering news about the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic continues to emerge. 

News Roundup: One Firing, Multiple Scandals

May 22, 2020
Trump's firing of the State Department's inspector general has unearthed a series of concerning stories about the conduct of the very person who pressed for the firing — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Documents We Obtained Show Barr Met with Prosecutor Examining Mueller Investigation — Immediately After Mueller Investigation Ended

May 20, 2020
The frequency of the meetings — including during the week Mueller finished his investigation — reveal the importance the attorney general placed on U.S. Attorney John Durham's investigation.

News Roundup: The Subversion of Justice at the Justice Department

May 15, 2020
From investigations into the president’s perceived enemies to interference in the criminal cases of Trump allies like Flynn and Roger Stone, the ongoing politicization of the department is a dangerous threat to the rule of law.

American Oversight Calls on Justice Department to Investigate Timothy Shea

May 13, 2020
The letter alleges that Interim U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Timothy Shea violated legal ethics rules and department guidelines with his motion to drop all charges against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

American Oversight Sues for Barr’s Communications About Michael Flynn Case

May 11, 2020
The lawsuit seeks the release of multiple categories of documents, including communications between White House officials and Attorney General William Barr or his top aides regarding the Flynn case.

Dropping the Flynn Charges Was Not Normal. We Need Investigations.

May 11, 2020
The Justice Department’s decision to drop the case against Flynn is a stunning assault on the rule of law that raises extremely troubling questions that need to be thoroughly investigated.

News Roundup: Protecting the Right to Vote During a Pandemic

May 1, 2020
Like many things in today’s politics, mail-in voting has become a political flashpoint as the November election gets closer.

News Roundup: Miracle Drugs and Trump’s Alternate Reality

April 24, 2020
Trump has seemingly failed to learn that no amount of political spin can minimize his administration’s mismanaged pandemic response.

News Roundup: Corruption and Coronavirus

April 10, 2020
Trump is apparently counting on the public to be too distracted by the coronavirus to pay much attention to his continuing dictator-like purges of government officials and his brazen rejection of oversight. 

News Roundup: Whose Stockpile, and Which States?

April 3, 2020
It shouldn’t be surprising that the president, who downplayed the crisis until just a few weeks ago, is once again avoiding taking responsibility.

News Roundup: Testing, Messaging and Missed Chances

March 20, 2020
The Trump administration’s early mismanagement of the novel coronavirus outbreak has put thousands of lives in danger.

Three Years of American Oversight

March 19, 2020
These are anxious and uncertain times. But as American Oversight marks its third anniversary, our work to expose corruption, self-dealing and other misconduct continues.

News Roundup: The Post-Impeachment Purge and the Knock of Authoritarianism

February 21, 2020
If news about White House complacency in the face of foreign election interference doesn’t get your attention, here are some other items for your consideration.

News Roundup: Trump Has Learned His ‘Lesson’

February 14, 2020
Trump's sights appear to be trained on making the Justice Department his personal political arm for helping allies and punishing perceived enemies.

American Oversight Is Investigating the Justice Department Leadership’s Intervention in the Roger Stone Case

February 13, 2020
American Oversight filed FOIA requests with the Justice Department to uncover the extent to which President Trump’s personal interests were behind top officials’ stunning decision this week to intervene in the prosecution of Roger Stone.

American Oversight Sues for Records of Trump Administration Investigations of Hillary Clinton and the Russia Probe

August 26, 2019
New lawsuits seek documents from the Huber and Durham inquiries into two of President Trump's political targets.

We Want to Know How the Justice Department Found the Clinton Investigation Directive — Months After It Said It Didn’t Exist

April 16, 2019
In its lawsuit regarding the Justice Department’s continued investigation of Hillary Clinton, American Oversight asked the court to allow for discovery, including potentially depositions, a legal proceeding rarely used in FOIA litigation.

William Barr’s Claims of Spying on the Trump Campaign Run Up Against Lack of Evidence

April 11, 2019
During a Wednesday Senate hearing, the attorney general said that he believed that spying on the Trump campaign by the FBI “did occur,” but provided no evidence for saying so.

Sessions Letter Shows DOJ Acted on Trump’s Authoritarian Demand to Investigate Clinton

March 9, 2019
American Oversight has uncovered the signed directive from Jeff Sessions instructing a federal prosecutor to carry out Trump’s authoritarian demand to investigate Hillary Clinton.

Lying to Congress Rarely Results in Charges — Until Now. Here’s How Others in Trump’s Circle Could Be in Trouble

February 27, 2019
Cohen’s conviction could signal a new way of doing business in prosecutions of those who lied to Congress.

Lawsuit Seeks Emails of DOJ Official Involved in Controversial Civil Rights Decisions

January 31, 2019
American Oversight filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice to find out whether outside groups or individuals have influenced the agency’s shifting priorities in the enforcement of civil rights protections.

William Barr and Bar Rules: How Trump’s Nominee Could Be Disqualified from Overseeing Mueller Investigation

January 16, 2019
Barr's meetings with Trump prior to his nomination could prevent him from being involved in the special counsel investigation.

Did McCabe Firing Violate Sessions’ Recusal? Watchdog Calls for Investigation

March 19, 2018
Nonpartisan ethics watchdog American Oversight today called on Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General to investigate whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions violated his recusal obligations in terminating former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

American Oversight Sues DOJ Over Decision to Reopen Uranium One Investigation

February 12, 2018
American Oversight today sued the Department of Justice (DOJ) to uncover the facts behind Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to reopen an investigation into Uranium One and Hillary Clinton.

Lawsuit Seeks Evidence of Political Influence in DOJ Investigations

January 26, 2018
Amid new reports into President Trump’s attempts to influence -- and shut down -- investigations at the Department of Justice (DOJ), American Oversight filed a lawsuit on Friday to find out if senior political appointees at DOJ have tried to inappropriately steer criminal and national security investigations.
Show all updates

Related Documents

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Florida Attorney General Communications Regarding Anti-Impeachment Letter

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FOIA to DOJ Seeking Attorney General Barr’s Visitor Logs

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FOIA to DOJ Seeking Assistant Attorney General Beth Ann Williams’ Visitor Logs

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August 21, 2020

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August 18, 2020

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FOIA to DOJ Seeking John Bash Emails Regarding Unmasking Investigation

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July 28, 2020

Withheld Records Response from DOJ Regarding Expended Resources on Durham Investigation into Russia Probe

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July 22, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Communications Between Meadows and DOJ Officials Involved in Durham Probe

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July 10, 2020

FOIA to DOJ for Communications Between SDNY and the Office of the Attorney General About President Trump’s Associates

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July 10, 2020

FOIA to DOJ for Communications Between SDNY and the White House Regarding President Trump’s Associates

Department of Justice, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys
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July 10, 2020

FOIA to DOJ for Communications Between SDNY and the White House Regarding Investigations of President Trump’s Associates

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June 23, 2020

No Records Response from DOJ Regarding Communications Between Eric Soskin and White House Officials

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June 2, 2020

DOJ Withheld Records Response Regarding Communications with the White House About Michael Flynn

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May 26, 2020

FOIA to DOJ for Judicial Nomination Communications

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May 21, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Records Reflecting Expended Resources on Durham’s Investigation into the Russian Investigations

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May 20, 2020

FOIA to State Seeking Pompeo’s Emails Regarding State IG Linick

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May 20, 2020

FOIA to State Seeking IG Linick’s Emails in the Days before His Firing

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May 20, 2020

FOIA to State Seeking Records or Memos Regarding IG Investigations into Pompeo

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May 20, 2020

FOIA to State Seeking Records Regarding Meetings between IG Linick and Pompeo

Department of State, State Office of the Inspector General
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May 20, 2020

FOIA to State Seeking IG Linick Emails Sent to Officials Regarding Pompeo Investigations

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May 18, 2020

No Records Response from EOIR Regarding Ethics Waivers for Immigration Judges

Department of Justice, DOJ - Executive Office for Immigration Review
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May 14, 2020

DOJ Withheld Records Response Regarding Directives Related to US Attorney Durham’s Review of the Origins of the Russia Investigation

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May 11, 2020

FOIA to DOJ for Communications with Senior Agency Officials and External Parties Regarding Michael Flynn’s Case

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May 11, 2020

FOIA to DOJ for Records Regarding the Case Against Michael Flynn

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May 11, 2020

FOIA to DOJ for Communications with Senior Agency Officials and the White House Regarding Michael Flynn’s Case

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May 11, 2020

No Records Response from DOJ’s Office of Solicitor General regarding Trump’s Claims of Spying

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May 6, 2020

No Records Response from EOUSA Regarding Religious Freedom Training

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May 5, 2020

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April 29, 2020

No Records Response from Texas Attorney General Regarding Bravoure

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April 27, 2020

Public Records Request to the Office of the Texas Attorney General Seeking Communications Related to Supreme Court Nominations

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April 24, 2020

No Records Response from the Office of the Associate Attorney General Regarding Religious Freedom Training

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April 23, 2020

DOJ Records of Senior Officials’ Meetings with John Huber

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April 23, 2020

FOIA to DOD Seeking Records of U.S. District Court Judge Justin Walker

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April 20, 2020

No Records Response from EOIR Regarding Communications of Retired Immigration Judge

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April 13, 2020

No Records Response from DOJ Regarding Guidance Issued by Attorney General Barr

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April 9, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Directives Issued by Attorney General Barr

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April 9, 2020

FOIA to OAG Seeking Directives Issued by Attorney General Barr

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April 7, 2020

FOIA to DOJ for Communications with U.S. Attorney John Durham

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April 6, 2020

DOJ Rejection for Communications with the White House About the Federal Criminal Case Michael Flynn

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April 3, 2020

FOIA to DOJ for Religious Freedom Laws Training Materials

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April 2, 2020

Treasury Resignation Letter of Jessie Liu

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April 1, 2020

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April 1, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Communications Between U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu and the White House

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March 25, 2020

Texas Attorney General Records Regarding Anti-Impeachment Letter

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March 23, 2020

Georgia Attorney General Records Regarding Anti-Impeachment Letter

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March 17, 2020

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March 17, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Communications with the White House Regarding State AG’s Anti-Impeachment Letter

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March 17, 2020

Public Information Request to Texas AG Seeking Communications Regarding Anti-Impeachment Letter

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March 17, 2020

Public Information Request to Florida AG Seeking Communications Regarding Anti-Impeachment Letter

Florida Attorney General
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March 17, 2020

Public Information Request to Georgia AG Seeking Communications Regarding Anti-Impeachment Letter

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March 17, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Materials from Religious Freedom Training

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March 16, 2020

Texas Attorney General Records Regarding Prosecutor Assignments

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March 6, 2020

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February 19, 2020

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February 13, 2020

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February 13, 2020

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February 13, 2020

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January 16, 2020

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January 16, 2020

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October 8, 2019

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September 30, 2019

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August 26, 2019

Complaint: American Oversight v. DOJ — John Durham’s Inquiry into the Russia investigation

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June 7, 2019

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March 8, 2019

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February 25, 2019

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November 3, 2018

Carter Page FISA Application Requests

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September 28, 2018

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DOJ Records Regarding Sharing Page/Strzok Texts With Congress

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June 1, 2018

DOJ Media Emails Regarding Strzok Page Texts

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May 21, 2018

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May 21, 2018

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April 25, 2018

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April 13, 2018

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April 13, 2018

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April 11, 2018

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April 11, 2018

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March 29, 2018

No Records Regarding the Strzok/Page Texts

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March 19, 2018

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FOIA to FBI Seeking White House Communications Regarding McCabe

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March 19, 2018

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March 19, 2018

FOIA to DOJ OAG Seeking Communications Regarding McCabe

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
March 19, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Communications with the FBI Regarding Termination of McCabe

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
March 19, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Communications with the FBI AG Regarding Termination of McCabe

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
March 19, 2018

FOIA Seeking Records Related to Sessions’ Recusal and the Decision to Fire McCabe

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February 16, 2018

Complaint: American Oversight v DOJ – Communications Between Deputy Associate AG Jesse Panuccio and Counsel

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February 15, 2018

No Recusal Analysis for Sessions from Justice Management Division

Department of Justice
Agency Reply
February 12, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Uranium One Seeking Attorney General Communications

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
February 12, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Regarding Uranium One and AG Sessions’ Role

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
February 12, 2018

Complaint: American Oversight v. DOJ – Uranium One

Department of Justice
Litigation
January 31, 2018

Complaint: American Oversight v. DOJ- Strzok/Page Texts

Department of Justice
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January 31, 2018

FOIA Regarding Legal or Ethical Issues Related to Jeff Sessions

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
January 31, 2018

FOIA Regarding HPSCI Seeking Communications

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
January 31, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Regarding Kelly’s Communications with DOJ

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
January 31, 2018

FOIA for Analyses of John Kelly’s Communications with DOJ

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
January 31, 2018

FOIA Regarding Release of Information to HPSCI

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
January 31, 2018

FOIA Seeking Policy Regarding White House and DOJ Communications

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
January 29, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Regarding Reopening of Clinton Email Investigation

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
January 29, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Regarding Reopening of Clinton Email Investigation Seeking Review of Emails

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
January 29, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Communications With White House About Huma Abedin

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
January 29, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Regarding Sessions’ Possible Role in Comey Firing

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
January 29, 2018

FOIA to DOJ Regarding Sessions’ Possible Role in Comey Firing Seeking Related Communications

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
January 26, 2018

Complaint: American Oversight v. DOJ-Investigations

Department of Justice
Litigation
January 16, 2018

Records Related to FOIAs Regarding Uranium One

Department of Justice
Agency Record
December 19, 2017

FOIA to DOJ/OLC Regarding Decision to Release Text Messages to Congress

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
December 14, 2017

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Records Related to Decision to Share Text Messages With Journalists

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
December 14, 2017

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Records of the Decision to Share Text Message Communications

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
December 14, 2017

FOIA to DOJ Regarding Peter Strzok and Lisa Page Text Message Conversation

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
December 14, 2017

FOIA to DOJ Regarding Decision to Share Text Messages

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 22, 2017

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Emails Related to Uranium One

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 22, 2017

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Records of FOIA Requests Received Regarding Bob Goodlatte’s Letter

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 22, 2017

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Communications Related to Goodlatte’s Letter

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 22, 2017

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Communications Regarding Alabama Election

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 22, 2017

FOIA to DOJ Regarding Congressman Robert Goodlatte’s Letters

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 22, 2017

FOIA to DOJ Regarding Congressman Robert Goodlatte’s Letters and Related Prosecutors

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 22, 2017

FOIA Seeking Records Related to Goodlatte Response

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 22, 2017

FOIA Seeking Records Related to Goodlatte Letters and Issues Discussed

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 22, 2017

FOIA to DOJ Regarding the AG’s Participation In Prosecution Related to Goodlatte’s Letters

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
September 13, 2017

DOJ Order of Succession as of November 2016

Department of Justice
Agency Record
July 19, 2017

FOIA Request to DOJ Communications National Security Division

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
July 19, 2017

FOIA Request to DOJ Office of Attorney General Regarding Investigations

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
July 18, 2017

FOIA Request to DOJ Changes of Litigation Positions

Department of Justice
FOIA Request