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Top Justice Department Official Personally Ousted Anti-Trump Worker

The head of the Antitrust Division chose not to renew a paralegal’s contract after she protested against separation of immigrant families, emails show.

Kelly Weill9.26.18 5:46 AM ET

A U.S. assistant attorney general personally intervened to end a paralegal’s work at the Justice Department after she protested a Trump administration official, emails reviewed by The Daily Beast show.

Paralegal Allison Hrabar participated in a June protest against Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, led by the Democratic Socialists of America. Hrabar’s protest led to an internal DOJ investigation, which found that she had not committed misconduct. But the head of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, dismissed the investigation’s conclusion and declined to extend Hrabar’s contract, according to communications reviewed by The Daily Beast.

Right-wing media have implied that Hrabar was let go because of a sting video by Project Veritas, a conservative outlet, but the DOJ moved not to renew her contract before the video was released.

Hrabar, 24, was among a group of DSA members who interrupted Nielsen’s dinner at a Mexican restaurant on June 19, in protest at the forcible separation of immigrant families by DHS.

Hrabar later spoke to the media about the protest, which earned her unwanted attention from the right, where observers learned of her employment with the DOJ and speculated that she was part of a nebulous “deep state” working against President Donald Trump.

Someone tried to report one of her pro-immigrant tweets as violating federal law against misuse of government resources, Hrabar told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview.

“My employer got phone calls,” she said. “I got some death threats.”

Hrabar’s direct supervisor at the Antitrust Division opened an inquiry into her participation in the protest. Meanwhile, other low-level employees were also cautioned against protest, Hrabar said.

“One section of the Antitrust Division—we’re split into six sections—called a meeting of paralegals and told them that they should be very careful protesting if they decide to do it, because they could embarrass the DOJ,” Hrabar said. A colleague described the meeting in similar terms, according to correspondences Hrabar shared with The Daily Beast.

“This is a meeting with their bosses who give them case assignments and write their performance reviews,” Hrabar said. “Another person at the DOJ was explicitly told not to have DSA or socialist things on their social media.”

The Department of Justice did not comment on the alleged meeting or social media order.

My employer got phone calls. I got some death threats.
Allison Hrabar

Hrabar worked reviewing business filings and helping attorneys. DOJ paralegals contract with the department on one-year terms that assistant attorneys general can renew up to four times—Hrabar described the renewal process as a “rubber stamp.” Despite working two terms at the DOJ, she had never interacted with the renewal process before, she said.

The investigation into the Nielsen protest found that Hrabar had not committed any misconduct. Still, on Sept. 18, Hrabar’s supervisor informed her that the DOJ would not be renewing her contract.

“As we have previously discussed, I conducted a management inquiry and determined that you did not commit misconduct,” the supervisor wrote via email on Sept. 19.

But Delrahim, head of the Antitrust Division, apparently did not agree.

“After reviewing the information he obtained as a result of my inquiry, Makan was troubled and concerned and believed that you were untruthful with me in several instances,” the supervisor wrote. “Thereafter, Makan made the decision not to extend your term appointment for an additional year.”

The supervisor wrote the following day that she should “clarify” that she didn’t know when Delrahim “made his decision about your term extension.”

A vocal Trump supporter, Delrahim previously served as a deputy White House counsel. At DOJ, he led the government’s efforts to block AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner. (The government lost its lawsuit and Delrahim is appealing the ruling.) Trump allies have recently floated him as a possible replacement for Attorney General Jeff Sessions or White House counsel Don McGahn, Bloomberg News reported last month.

One section of the Antitrust Division called a meeting of paralegals and told them that they should be very careful protesting if they decide to do it, because they could embarrass the DOJ.
Allison Hrabar

Hrabar said she doesn’t know what Delrahim accused her of being untruthful about.

“I would love to know, but I don’t,” she said. “He could have made that decision on June 20, and then told me in September, and there’s really no way for me to know.”

DOJ officials repeatedly told Hrabar that her last day in the office would be Oct. 2, “in accordance with Division policy” to give her the 14 days’ notice usually extended to DOJ employees who lose their jobs, emails show.

But when Hrabar arrived at work Monday, her badge had been deactivated, she said. Security guards and management met her at the door and informed her that she no longer worked at the department, she added.  

“I asked for a union rep or a lawyer to be present, and they said there was nothing left to say because my term wasn’t renewed, and this was routine,” Hrabar said.

Security helped her clear out her desk.

DOJ spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores told The Daily Beast that “there’s no entitlement to 14 days under any DOJ regulation or policy related to contract employees. Her contract ended on 9/23—so the only options are to renew it or to let it end. A supervisor cannot extend it by 14 days.”

Conservative media implied Hrabar’s departure was connected to a video Project Veritas released Sept. 19. The video, part of a series targeting DSA members with government jobs, shows Hrabar discussing using public records to locate lobbyists. When Project Veritas asked two other DSA members about their investigative tools, the DSA members suggested that Hrabar had used the records database LexisNexis—and that she might have had access to it through a work computer. (The full conversations are not shown.) Hrabar, who is not presented with the allegations in the clip, told The Daily Beast she did not misuse work resources.

“Everything was done off-work hours and I never used work resources for activism,” she said. “I’ve always been really careful about those rules. I love rules. It was always very comforting to know that I know exactly what I am and am not allowed to do.”

Flores, the DOJ spokesperson, also referenced the video.

“You're aware of the allegations against her related to the inappropriate use of government records that were sent to the inspector general last week?” Flores asked The Daily Beast in response to an email about Hrabar’s departure.

But the Project Veritas video was not released until Sept. 19, the day after Hrabar learned her contract would not be renewed. Project Veritas spokesperson Marco Bruno told The Daily Beast that the group “did not approach the DOJ with allegations against Hrabar before publication.”

Project Veritas filed an official complaint against Hrabar shortly after publishing the video, Bruno said, sharing a complaint dated Sept. 19.

The video is apparently irrelevant in Hrabar’s departure, aside from the DOJ’s choice to cite it in emails to media.

Hrabar said she’s weighing her legal options against the department and is considering a wrongful termination lawsuit.

“I’m working with a private attorney and I’m hoping to hold the DOJ accountable for what’s very clearly political retaliation,” she said, “even if they’re trying to sell it a different way.”