Trump DOJ seized data from House Democrats as part of leak investigation – –

Trump DOJ seized data from House Democrats as part of leak investigation – –

WASHINGTON – Former President Donald Trump’s US Justice Department seized account data from at least two members of the House Intelligence Committee in 2018 as part of an aggressive crackdown on leaks related to the investigation into the Russia and other national security matters, according to a committee official and two people familiar with the investigation.

Trump’s Justice Department prosecutors have subpoenaed Apple for the data, according to people, who have been granted anonymity to discuss the secret seizures first reported by The New York Times.

The files of at least twelve people linked to the intelligence panel were eventually shared, including Chairman Adam Schiff, then the committee’s top Democrat. California Representative Eric Swalwell was the second member, according to spokeswoman Natalie Edelstein. The files of assistants, former assistants and family members were also seized, including a minor, according to the head of the committee.

Apple informed the committee last month that their files had been shared, but did not give detailed details. The committee is aware, however, that account metadata has been handed over, the official said. The recordings do not contain any other content from the devices, such as photos, messages or emails, one of the other people said. The third person said Apple complied with the subpoena, providing the information to the Department of Justice, and did not immediately notify members of Congress or the committee of the disclosure.

While the Department of Justice routinely investigates leaked information, including classified information, the initiation of such an investigation into members of Congress is extraordinarily rare.

The Trump administration’s attempt to covertly gain access to data of individual members of Congress and others connected with the panel came as the president ranted publicly and privately about investigations – in Congress and through the attorney special of the time, Robert Mueller – on the links of his campaign. in Russia. Trump called the investigations a “witch hunt,” regularly criticized Schiff and other Democrats on Twitter, and repeatedly dismissed “fake news” as leaks that he personally found harmful to his agenda. As investigations revolved around him, he demanded the loyalty of a Justice Department he often viewed as his personal law firm.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Said in a statement that “these actions appear to be another blatant attack on our democracy” led by the former president.

“The news regarding the politicization of the Trump administration’s justice department is heartbreaking,” she said.

Schiff, now chairman of the panel, confirmed in a statement Thursday evening that the Justice Department informed the committee in May that the investigation was closed. Still, he said, “I think more answers are needed, which is why I think the Inspector General should investigate this case and others that suggest the militarization of law enforcement. by a corrupt president. “

The justice ministry then told the intelligence group that the case had not been transferred to any other investigative body or body, the committee official said, and the ministry reconfirmed this to the committee on Thursday. .

The panel continued to seek additional information, but the Justice Department was not available in a timely manner, including on issues such as whether the investigation was properly founded and whether it targeted only Democrats, the committee official said.

It is not known why Trump’s Justice Department allegedly targeted a minor as part of the investigation. Swalwell, confirming that he had been told his files had been seized, told CNN on Thursday evening that he knew a minor was involved and “I think they were targeted punitively and for no legal reason. “.

Another Democrat on the intelligence panel, Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley, said he did not even find it “very surprising” that Trump took issue with committee members during the investigation. Russia.

“From my earliest days with the Russia investigation, I expected someone to end up attempting this – I just didn’t know if it would be a hostile government or mine,” said Quigley.

There is no indication that the Department of Justice used the files to prosecute anyone. After some of the information was declassified and made public during the last few years of the Trump administration, some prosecutors feared that even if they could file a leak case, it would be difficult to try and a conviction would be unlikely. , one of the people said. Federal agents interviewed at least one former committee staff member in 2020, the person said, and ultimately prosecutors were unable to substantiate a case.

The news follows revelations that the Justice Department secretly seized telephone tapes belonging to reporters at the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN as part of criminal investigations into the leaks. Following an outcry from press freedom organizations, the Justice Ministry announced last week that it would stop targeting journalists’ search for information.


Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.


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