Department of Justice, Congress investigates Democratic data seized by Trump


Washington (Associated Press)-The US Department of Justice’s internal oversight agency launched an investigation on Friday after news that the former President Donald Trump’s administration had secretly obtained from at least two House Democrats as part of an active leak investigation. The party members obtained telephone data. Democrats called the seizures “distressing” and abuse of power.

Soon after the Deputy Justice Minister Lisa Monaco filed an internal investigation request, the inspector general Michael Horowitz announced the news. Horowitz said he will review whether the data subpoenaed by the Justice Department and handed over by Apple complies with departmental policies and whether “any such use or investigation is based on improper considerations.”

Horowitz said he will also investigate the seizure of journalists’ phone records similar to the Trump era.

The Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff (Adam Schiff, D-Calif.) and another Democratic member of the panel, Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, said that Apple last month Notify them that their metadata was subpoenaed and handed over to the Ministry of Justice in 2018 because their committee is investigating the former president’s relationship with Russia. Schiff was the top Democrat in the group, which was led by the Republican Party.

File-In this May 1, 2019 file photo, then Attorney General William Barr appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee for the first time since the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report on Capitol Hill in Washington, facing lawmakers The problem. Senate Democratic leaders asked former Attorney Generals Bill Barr and Jeff Sessions to testify about the secret seizure of data by House Democrats in 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Although the Department of Justice routinely investigates leaked information, including classified information, private information subpoenaed by members of Congress is very rare. These disclosures, first reported by the New York Times, raised questions about what the Justice Department’s reason for spying on another government department was and whether it was done for political reasons.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement that the Trump administration’s behavior was “shocking” and “obviously conforms to a shocking trend that is contrary to how authority should be used.”

Bates said that one of Joe Biden’s primary reasons for running for president was “his predecessor’s unreasonable abuse of power, including the offensive way he tried to impose his political interests on the Department of Justice.”

As the Trump administration took covert operations to obtain data, the president was publicly and privately angry with Congress and then special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the relationship between his campaign and Russia. Trump called these investigations a “witch hunt,” and frequently criticized Democrats and Mueller on Twitter, and dismissed leaks that he deemed harmful to his agenda as “fake news.” As the investigation unfolded around him, he demanded the Department of Justice’s loyalty to the private law firm he often regarded as his.

Swalwell and Schiff are the two most notable Democrats on the committee during the Russian investigation, and they often appear in the cable news. Trump pays close attention to these channels, if not obsessed, and is angry at the reports.

Schiff said the seizures showed that “corrupt presidents have weaponized law enforcement” and urged the Justice Department to “conduct a comprehensive damage assessment of the department’s actions in the past four years.”

Senate Democratic leaders immediately asked former Attorney General Bill Barr and Jeff Sessions to oversee Trump’s leak investigation and testify on secret subpoenas. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin said in a statement that “Donald Trump and his flatterers must investigate this shocking politicization of the Justice Department.” They said that if Barr and Sessions refused, they would receive a subpoena.

According to a committee official and two other people familiar with the matter, prosecutors from the Trump Justice Department have subpoenaed Apple to provide these data. The records of at least 12 people related to the intelligence team were eventually shared by the company, including assistants, former assistants and family members. One is a minor.

Apple notified the committee last month that the records had been shared and the investigation had ended, but did not provide extensive details. Committee officials and two other people with knowledge of the data seizure were allowed to discuss these issues anonymously.

One of the people familiar with the matter said that the Justice Department obtained metadata—usually records of phone calls, text messages, and location—but did not obtain other content from the device, such as photos, messages, or emails. Another said that Apple complied with the subpoena and provided information to the Department of Justice, but did not immediately notify members of Congress or the committee of the disclosed information.

Speaker of the California House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said in a statement that the data seizure “seems to be another serious attack on our democracy by the former president.”

“The news about the politicization of the Trump administration’s Justice Department is distressing,” she said.

FBI Director Christopher Ray (left) and House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Eric Svalwell (California Democrat) at the FBI oversight hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, June 10, 2021 Talk during the adjournment. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The committee officials said that the House Intelligence Team will ask Apple to investigate whether other legislators have been targeted. The official said that the Justice Department has not been candid about whether the investigation predicted correctly and whether it only focuses on the Democratic Party.

It is not clear why the Trump Justice Department included minors as part of the investigation. Svalwell confirmed that he was told that his records had been confiscated. He told CNN on Thursday night that he knew a minor was involved and believed that the person was “a punitive target, not for any reason. Legal reasons”.

According to a fourth person familiar with the matter, the Senate Intelligence Committee was not subject to a similar attack and allowed to discuss the matter anonymously.

There is no indication that the Justice Department used these records to prosecute anyone. A person familiar with the matter said that after some information related to the Russian investigation was declassified and made public in the late Trump administration, some prosecutors worried that even if they could file a leak, they were unlikely to convict.

The person familiar with the matter said that federal agents questioned at least one former committee staff member in 2020, and in the end, prosecutors were unable to confirm the case.

Earlier, it was reported that as part of a criminal leak investigation, the Department of Justice secretly seized the phone records of reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN. After being strongly protested by press freedom organizations, the Justice Department announced last week that it would stop tracking journalists for information.

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Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.



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