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Trump's DOJ seizes private records of a journalist - here's why they did it

The New York Times reported that the personal records of a journalist had been siezed by the Department of Justice in the course of investigating the source of government leaks. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The New York Times is reporting that a journalist was notified that the Department of Justice has seized private records of their personal email accounts and phone calls in the course of an investigation into leaks from the government.

Here's what happened

The Department of Justice notified reporter Ali Watkins in February via a letter that her private records had been seized by the government.

The letter read, "you are hereby notified that the United States Department of Justice has received the following records pursuant to legal process: historical customer records, business records, and subscriber account information, not including the content of communications (except for communications between the subscriber and the provider) from account inception to November 2017, or certain accounts associated with [your] Google ID," and two of her email addresses and a phone number.

This is the first time it's been confirmed that the government has seized records of a journalist under Trump - but it happened under former President Obama as well.

Watkins worked for Politico and for Buzzfeed during the periods of which the government seized records.

Watkins’s personal lawyer Mark J. MacDougall released a statement to the New York Times, saying, “It’s always disconcerting when a journalist’s telephone records are obtained by the Justice Department — through a grand jury subpoena or other legal process. Whether it was really necessary here will depend on the nature of the investigation and the scope of any charges.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that he would make it a special focus of his to shut down leaks from the government that many believe were being orchestrated by a "deep state" of Obama holdovers who were opposed to the president's policies.

“Are we living in Nazi Germany?”

The president has also decried the leaks during his tenure, and has lashed out from his Twitter account at who he believes is responsible.

One stinging criticism from the president compared the intelligence services to those in Nazi Germany.

"Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to 'leak' into the public. One last shot at me," he tweeted. "Are we living in Nazi Germany?"

The report is likely to inspire more criticism from the news media that has bemoaned the hostility coming from the president since before the election. Trump has promised to attack the media over what he perceives as bias against Republicans.

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