Probe launched into Trump seizure of Democrats' data

World Saturday 12/June/2021 17:10 PM
By: DW
Probe launched into Trump seizure of Democrats' data

The Department of Justice's (DOJ) internal watchdog said Friday that it will investigate Trump-era subpoenas for communication records of congressional Democrats.

The move comes after a bombshell report published in the New York Times Thursday revealed that the DOJ under the Trump administration had subpoenaed tech giant Apple in 2017 for communication metadata belonging to at least two Democrats in the House of Representatives.

What did the DOJ inspector general say?

"The review will examine the Department's compliance with applicable DOJ policies and procedures, and whether any such uses, or the investigations, were based upon improper considerations," DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in a statement.

"If circumstances warrant, the OIG will consider other issues that may arise during the review,” the statement added.

The subpoenas reportedly targeted a top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff of California. Eric Swalwell, another Democrat who sits on the committee, was also targeted.

The Trump DOJ seized records from at least 12 people related to the intelligence panel, including aides and family members, which reportedly included a minor.

The subpoenas were aimed at finding out who was leaking damaging classified information about the administration related to contact between Trump officials and the Russian government.

Members of the House Intelligence Committee have access to this classified information.

The investigation into the leaks began under former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and continued under his successor, William Barr.

Former Attorney General Barr told Politico Friday that he "was not aware of any congressman's record being sought in a leak case."

What has Congress said about the subpoenas?

In a statement, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin have called the subpoenas a "gross abuse of power" and demanded Barr and Sessions testify under oath before Congress.

In a tweet, Schiff said the probe by the DOJ inspector general investigation is "just the start."

"The full range of the misconduct must be examined, including Barr's efforts to protect those who lied to cover up and go after Trump's enemies," Schiff asserted.

California Congressman Swalwell said by going after the private communications of his political enemies, Trump effectively "weaponized" the DOJ.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the subpoenas "yet another egregious assault on our democracy waged by our former president."

What has Apple said about the scandal?

Apple said Friday it received a subpoena from the DOJ in February 2018 asking for 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses. Apple said it only provided metadata and account subscriber information in response to the subpoena, which came with a gag order.

Apple said the subpoena "provided no information on the nature of the investigation."

Microsoft told the New York Times in a statement Friday that the company received a subpoena in 2017 from the DOJ regarding a personal email account. Microsoft later found out the email account was related to an unidentified congressional staffer.