Trump DOJ seized House Democrats' data from Apple
Trump administration officials subpoenaed Apple for data on accounts belonging to at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, congressional aides and their family members to find who was behind the leaks of classified information, The New York Times reported on Thursday
Committee officials and sources with knowledge of the inquiry told the Times that records belonging to at least a dozen people, including House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), were seized in 2017 and 2018. Data that belonged to family members, including at least one minor, was also seized.
One source told the Times that Apple turned over metadata and account information, but did not provide photos, emails or other content.
According to the Times, prosecutors under former Attorney General Jeff Sessions were looking to identify sources who were speaking to members of the media about contact between Trump associates and Russia.
The data seized in the investigations ultimately did not connect the Intelligence Committee to the information leaks; however, Sessions's successor William Barr later revived the investigation, moving a trusted New Jersey prosecutor, Osmar Benvenuto, into the main branch of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to continue the investigation into Schiff and around half a dozen other people, according to the Times.
In a statement to the Times, Schiff said former President Trump had used the DOJ as a “cudgel against his political opponents and members of the media.”
“It is increasingly apparent that those demands did not fall on deaf ears,” Schiff said. “The politicization of the department and the attacks on the rule of law are among the most dangerous assaults on our democracy carried out by the former president.”
The California congressman called for an independent inspector general to investigate the probe into committee members and any others who “suggest the weaponization of law enforcement.”
David Laufman, a former DOJ official who used to investigate leaks, told the Times, “notwithstanding whether there was sufficient predication for the leak investigation itself, including family members and minor children strikes me as extremely aggressive."
“In combination with former President Trump’s unmistakable vendetta against Congressman Schiff, it raises serious questions about whether the manner in which this investigation was conducted was influenced by political considerations rather than purely legal ones," Laufman added.
“Recently, it has become public that the Trump Administration sought account metadata of House Intelligence Committee Members and staff and their families," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “The news about the politicization of the Trump Administration Justice Department is harrowing. These actions appear to be yet another egregious assault on our democracy waged by the former president.
"I support Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s call for an investigation into this situation and other acts of the weaponization of law enforcement by the former president," she added. "Transparency is essential.”
This report comes amid other reports that the DOJ under the Trump administration sought the phone and email records of various reporters from CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post, among others, to find out where they were sourcing their information.