The Justice Department’s internal watchdog has launched an investigation into the efforts of former President Donald Trump’s administration to secretly confiscate Democrats ’communications data in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s announcement came shortly after Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco made the request on Friday. Horowitz said he would examine whether the data provided by Apple followed the department’s policy and “whether those uses or investigations were based on improper considerations.”
On Thursday, it was reported that the Trump administration confiscated telephone data from House Democrats in 2018 as part of a aggressive leaks research.
Democratic Representatives Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell were warned that the Trump Justice Department had confiscated its metadata from Apple three years ago as part of an aggressive crackdown on leaks related to Russia’s research and other national security issues, according to three people familiar with the seizures who spoke to The Associated Press news agency.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said Friday in a statement that former Attorneys General William Barr and Jeff Sessions “must testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee” and are subject to a subpoena if they refuse.
Schiff and Swalwell were part of the House Intelligence Committee at the time. Schiff is now the president.
Although the Department of Justice routinely conducts investigations into leaked information, including classified information, opening this investigation to members of Congress is extraordinarily rare. Disclosures reveal a branch of government that uses its powers of investigation and processing to spy on another.
Finally, the company shared the records of at least 12 people connected to the intelligence board.
The Justice Department obtained metadata (probably call logs, texts, and locations), but not other content from the devices, such as photos, messages, or emails, according to one of the people. Another said Apple complied with the subpoena, providing the information to the Justice Department, and did not immediately notify members of Congress or the disclosure committee.
Apple informed the committee last month that the records had been shared and that the investigation had been closed, but did not give extensive details. Attendance records were also confiscated from former assistants and relatives, one of them a minor, according to the committee head.
He secret seizures were first reported by The New York Times.
The Trump administration’s attempt to secretly access the data came when the president was smoking publicly and privately during investigations (in Congress and then).special counsel Robert Mueller – in the links of his campaign with Russia.
Trump called the probes a “witch hunt.” he regularly criticized Democrats and Mueller on Twitter and repeatedly dismissed as “fake news” leaks he found detrimental to his agenda.
As investigations revolved around him, Trump repeatedly demanded loyalty from Justice Department officials.
Schiff and Swalwell were two of the most visible Democrats on the Republican-led committee at the time. Probe of Russia. Both California lawmakers made frequent appearances on cable news. Trump watched these channels closely, not to say obsessively, and analyzed the coverage.
The committee official said the group has continued to seek additional information, but the Justice Department has not come forward on issues such as whether the investigation was properly based and whether it focused only on Democrats.
On CNN Friday, Swalwell said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the department had gone after other members as well. He said an internal investigation by the Justice Department could find out. According to a fourth person who was aware of the investigation and granted anonymity to discuss it, the Senate Intelligence Committee was not targeted in the same way.
There is no evidence that the Justice Department used the records to prosecute anyone. After some of the information was declassified and made public during the last years of the Trump administration, some prosecutors worried that even if they could file a leak case, trying to do so would be difficult and unlikely. condemnation. said the people.
Federal agents questioned at least one former committee staff member in 2020, the person said, and ultimately prosecutors were unable to substantiate a case.