The United States Department of Justice under Donald Trump seized data from the accounts of at least two members of the House of Representatives intelligence committee in 2018 as part of an aggressive crackdown on leaks related to the Russia investigation and other Russian matters. national security, according to a committee official. and two people familiar with the investigation.
The former president’s Justice Department prosecutors cited Apple for the data, according to the people, who were granted anonymity to discuss the secret seizures first reported by the New York Times.
The records of at least 12 people connected to the intelligence panel were eventually shared, including President Adam Schiff, who was then the committee’s top Democrat.
California Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell was the second member, according to spokeswoman Natalie Edelstein. The records of aides, former aides and family members were also seized, including one who was a minor, according to the committee official.
Apple informed the committee last month that its records had been shared, but did not give many details. However, the committee knows that the metadata for the accounts was released, the official said.
The logs 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, provided the information to the Justice Department, and did not immediately notify members of Congress or the committee of the disclosure.
While the Justice Department routinely conducts investigations of leaked information, including classified intelligence, opening such an investigation to members of Congress is extraordinarily rare.
The Trump administration’s attempt to secretly gain access to the data of individual members of Congress and others associated with the panel came as the president was furious in public and private over the investigations, in Congress, and by the then prosecutor. special Robert Mueller, on the ties of his campaign with Russia. . Trump called the investigations a “witch hunt,” regularly criticizing Schiff and other Democrats on Twitter, and repeatedly dismissing them as “fake news” leaks that he deemed personally damaging to his agenda. As investigations swirled around him, he demanded loyalty from a Justice Department that he often considered his personal law firm.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said in a statement that “these actions appear to be another heinous assault on our democracy” undertaken by the former president.
“The news about the politicization of the Trump administration’s justice department is heartbreaking,” he said.
Schiff, now chairman of the panel, confirmed in a statement late Thursday that the Justice Department had informed the committee in May that the investigation was closed. Still, he said: “I think more answers are needed, so I think the Inspector General should investigate this and other cases that suggest a corrupt president has used law enforcement as a weapon.”
The justice department told the intelligence panel at the time that the matter had not been transferred to any other investigative entity or body, the committee official said, and the department confirmed that to the committee again on Thursday.
The panel has continued to seek additional information, but the department has not communicated in a timely manner, including on issues such as whether the investigation was properly conducted and whether it only addressed Democrats, the committee official said.
It is unclear why Trump’s justice department would have targeted a minor as part of the investigation. Swalwell, confirming that he was told their records were confiscated, told CNN late Thursday that he knew there was a minor involved and that “I believe they were attacked in a punitive manner and not for any legal reason.”
Another Democrat on the intelligence panel, Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley, said he did not find it “even remotely surprising” that Trump pursued the records of committee members during the Russia investigation.
“From my early days as part of the Russia investigation, I was hoping that eventually someone would try this, but I wasn’t sure if it would be a hostile government or my own,” Quigley said.