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Justice Dept. Official to Step Down Amid Uproar Over Leaks Inquiry

  • June 15, 2021

Though such moves require signoff by the attorney general, Mr. Demers and his top counterintelligence deputies would typically be briefed and updated on those efforts.

Much of the spotlight on national security cases during Mr. Demers’s tenure focused instead on the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who ran the Russia investigation, the Justice Department’s highest-profile and politically complicated national security matter.

But Mr. Demers’s term included oversight of other significant cases, some with political overtones. National security prosecutors in 2018 arrested an executive at Huawei, one of China’s most important telecommunications companies, on charges of defying sanctions, as President Donald J. Trump sat next to President Xi Jinping of China at a state dinner.

Mr. Demers’s signature achievement is likely to be the division’s work to combat Chinese intellectual property theft, espionage and other national security threats as part of its so-called China initiative, which focused law enforcement resources on such cases.

Under the program, the department prosecuted about half a dozen cases in which economic information was targeted, highlighting how China had become a safe harbor for criminal hackers who sometimes worked for its government. Hackers accused of working for the People’s Liberation Army were charged with breaking into the computers of American companies like Equifax to steal information.

The Justice Department also cracked down on China’s efforts to cultivate and influence academics at U.S. colleges and research centers in an effort to have them transfer technical expertise and other research. The department also strengthened the review of Chinese companies that sought to invest in U.S. technology.

In an interview last fall, Mr. Demers said China was “as assertive as it’s ever been in terms of pressing its interests openly around the world.” The China initiative was a continuation of cases that the Obama administration had done under Mr. Carlin and Ms. Monaco, he said.

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