John Demers, head of the Department of Justice’s national security division.
John Demers will be stepping down as head of the Justice Department’s national security division within two weeks, CNBC has learned.
Demers’ impending exit comes as the DOJ comes under fire for searching electronic records of reporters at major national news outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN, and that of some Democratic lawmakers in connection with the investigation into the leaks secret information. Legislators included Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Demers oversaw these investigations, which took place during President Donald Trump’s tenure.
The DOJ said Saturday it would no longer secretly seize journalists’ records in the context of spills.
A department spokesman said Demers announced his plans to quit his job months ago before the probes scandal broke out.
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The spokesman said Demers originally expected to quit his job on Jan. 20 when President Joe Biden was sworn into office.
However, at the repeated request of the current department head, Demers agreed to remain in his office for several months. Demers has been telling his superiors for months that he would leave when his kids’ summer vacation starts.
When asked what Demers was up to next, the spokesman said he had nothing to announce yet.
The DOJ has been criticized not only for targeting journalists and lawmakers with subpoenas, but also for obtaining gag orders that prevent media and data companies from making these requests for information public.
The DOJ’s Inspector General’s Office, an internal watchdog, is investigating the subpoenas’ attacks on journalists and Democratic MPs and their staff. Schiff, D-California, chairs the House Intelligence Committee and is one of Trump’s harshest critics. Another member of this body, the California Democrat Eric Swalwell, had his metadata released by Apple in 2018 as part of a subpoena to the DOJ, while the committee was also investigating Trump’s ties to Russia.
Biden said it was “easy, just wrong” to confiscate reporters’ records.
In a statement Monday on the investigation, Attorney General Merrick Garland said, “As I discovered during my confirmation hearing, political or other improper considerations should not be part of any investigative or prosecutor’s decision.”
“These principles, long held to be sacrosanct by the DOJ staff, are vigorously observed under my supervision, and any failure to comply will result in strict accountability.”
“There are important issues that need to be resolved in connection with the department’s efforts to maintain records of members of the Congress and Congress personnel,” Garland said.
“Accordingly, I have ordered that the matter be referred to the Inspector General and I fully trust that he will conduct a thorough and independent investigation. If at any point in the course of the investigation action is warranted in relation to the matter in question, I will not hesitate to move quickly. “
Garland also said he had directed the assistant attorney general to “evaluate and strengthen the division’s existing policies and procedures for obtaining legislative records”.
“In line with our commitment to the rule of law, we must ensure that full weight is given to the issues of separation of powers,” said the Attorney General.