Trump Justice Department seized data from House Democrats in leaks probe

Eloise Marshall
June 12, 2021

When investigating leaks of classified information during the early days of the Trump Administration, the United States Justice Department subpoenaed Apple for metadata from the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, reports The New York Times.

A House Intelligence Committee official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter remains politically sensitive, said Thursday night that Apple in May had notified at least 12 people connected to the panel of subpoenas for their data, and that one minor was among them. One of the Democrats was Adam Schiff, who now serves as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Though leak investigations are routine, current and former officials at the Justice Department and in Congress said seizing data on lawmakers is almost unheard-of outside of corruption investigations. "The Justice Department has specific procedures for such sensitive investigations, and the inspector general is already working to determine if they were followed". Apple informed the committee last month that their records had been shared, but did not give extensive detail.

Senator Chuck Schumer of NY, the majority leader, and Senator Richard J. Durbin of IL, the chairman of the judiciary panel, said they were willing to subpoena for testimony Mr. Barr, former Attorney General Jeff Session and others if necessary.

The Times writes that the DOJ routinely investigates leaks, but it was "extraordinary" for the DOJ to subpoena "communications metadata from members of Congress - a almost unheard-of move outside of corruptions investigations". "This is a gross abuse of power and an assault on the separation of powers", Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and judiciary committee chairman Dick Durbin said in a joint statement Friday.

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People familiar with the matter said there was no evidence connecting the House Intelligence Committee to the leaks, but the probe was revived when William Barr became attorney general and prosecutors doubled down on trying to figure out who leaked information about Michael Flynn, Trump's first national security adviser, and his contacts with then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

Cuomo said, "This is exactly what people thought Trump would change, which is something like a deep state, where they're using an institution of government to investigate you in search of proof against you as opposed to proof driving an investigation".

"The news about the politicization of the Trump Administration Justice Department is harrowing", she said. "Apparently, they didn't find anything", Schiff said during a CNN interview on Friday.

Another Democrat on the intelligence panel, Illinois Representative Mike Quigley, said he did not find it even "remotely surprising" that Trump went after committee members' records during the Russian Federation probe. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

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