The Justice Department under former President Donald Trump is coming under fire following reports which show that during his tenure as President, the organization secretly obtained the phone records, and attempted to access emails, from three Washington Post reporters who had been investigating the administration and Russia’s role in the 2016 election.

The Washington Post reports that former reporter Adam Entous, and current reporters Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller, were the targets of their records being seized, and they were notified by letters from the department that records of their work, home and cellphone numbers and the calls they made and received at those numbers between April 15, 2017, and July 31, 2017, were the target of the investigation. The dates coincide with a story the three wrote about Jeff Sessions discussing the Trump campaign with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

The records included the numbers of all calls made to and from the numbers subpoenaed and the duration of those calls, but do not contain transcripts of what was said during them. A court order to obtain “non-content communication records” for their work email accounts was also made, though they ultimately weren’t examined.

The news was quickly met with swift disdain on social media as a major overstep by the administration for trying to suppress Free Speech and Freedom of the Press—two of the rights in the First Amendment—and many said it was a move meant to intimidate reporters from doing their jobs.

The news also came on the heels of a major blow for the Trump DOJ and former Attorney General William Barr, after Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Barr had to turn over the memo he cited as having used in his decision not to charge the former President with Obstruction of Justice.

The Justice Department is now headed up by Merrick Garland, after he was appointed by President Joe Biden.

US intelligence believes that Russia meddles in the 2016 election which brought Donald Trump to power US intelligence believes that Russia meddles in the 2016 election which brought Donald Trump to power Photo: AFP / SAUL LOEB