The policy, eventually scrapped by the Trump administration, resulted in criminal prosecutions for adults accused of crossing the border illegally, even if accompanied by young children. During the political chaos, US officials essentially lost sight of the bonds between some immigrant children and their parents, leading to extreme difficulty in reuniting them. Litigation and claims for damages related to the policy are still ongoing.
The media revelations in the fall of 2020 raised concerns within the department, where officials believed the leaks were intended to influence the election outcome, two people familiar with the matter said. The final report was officially released by Horowitz’s office in January 2021.
According to the summary released Wednesday, Horowitz’s office referred the potential leak to a board that oversees government inspectors general, which in turn assigned the investigation to an inspector general’s office outside the Justice Department. .
That investigation ultimately centered on an unnamed employee of Horowitz’s office, which has about 500 investigators and other staff.
“The independent investigation has reviewed the telephone records of the DOJ OIG employee and found that they reflect numerous, lengthy telephone conversations between the then DOJ OIG employee and media reporters during the period in which articles were published about the ongoing DOJ OIG review, as well as electronic evidence demonstrating that the DOJ OIG employee at the time was aware of the documents referenced in the various articles,” states the two-page press release.
The summary described an extensive investigation into the leak, which included asking staff involved in the work to answer written questions about whether they had any interactions with the media. That request appears to have prompted an employee to quit, according to the statement.
“The Independent Investigation noted that the then DOJ OIG employee abruptly resigned from the DOJ OIG shortly before the date the employee and other DOJ OIG employees related to the DOJ OIG review then-current had been asked to submit sworn responses to a questionnaire regarding unauthorized disclosures to the media,” the summary states. “The independent investigation further noted that the then DOJ OIG employee was the only DOJ OIG employee who did not respond to questions about unauthorized disclosures.”
Although the investigation found that the anonymous employee violated “federal ethics rules and DOJ OIG policy,” the summary makes no reference to the illegal leak or the case being referred for potential prosecution. A written denial from the alleged lessor could have exposed him to a criminal charge of misrepresentation.
Horowitz’s office said the staffer who later resigned refused to speak to investigators. The DOJ IG and the other IG agency that conducted the investigation into the leaks do not have the authority to compel former employees to testify in investigations, the summary notes.
In a related development, Horowitz’s office said later Wednesday that it had made “non-material revisions” to its final report on the family separation policy following a review by the inspector general of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“The changes have been made to passages in the report to more closely align with the supporting evidence in our underlying working papers,” Horowitz’s office said.
Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.