The House Judiciary Committee will immediately open an investigation into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to obtain the phone and email records of journalists and Democratic lawmakers during his administration, the panel’s chairman announced Monday.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said recent reports detailing the Justice Department’s aggressive use of subpoenas under the former president suggested they were used “as a pretext to spy on President Trump’s perceived political enemies.”
“Congress must make it extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, for the Department to spy on the Congress or the news media,” Nadler said Monday. “We should make it hard for prosecutors to hide behind secret gag orders for years at a time. We cannot rely on the Department alone to make these changes.”
He continued: “It is also possible that these cases are merely our first glimpse into a coordinated effort by the Trump Administration to target President Trump’s political opposition. If so, we must learn the full extent of this gross abuse of power, root out the individuals responsible, and hold those individuals accountable for their actions.”
Nadler stressed that he believed a probe would help repair “the damage done” by the previous administration, adding that healing was not “something we can accomplish by simply turning the page.”
The investigation comes just days after a series of alarming revelations surrounding the Trump administration’s aggressive efforts to gather the records of journalists and prominent Democrats.
The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN all said they were told in recent weeks the Justice Department had secretly subpoenaed the phone and email records of some of their reporters to try and identify the sources behind some stories, part of Trump’s frenetic attempt to squash leaks within his administration.
Late last week, the Times added that prosecutors had also secretly obtained the personal data of two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), then the party’s top lawmaker on the panel, and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.). The pair were informed their aides and family members were also targeted in the subpoena, including one minor.
The subpoenas also included a gag order against Apple and the leaders of the Times and CNN, which barred them from disclosing the demands. They only became public in recent weeks under the tenure of now-President Joe Biden.
The revelations sparked deep criticism from media outlets and throughout Congress. The DOJ said Friday it would internally review the subpoenas, and one of the agency’s top officials has already resigned. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has also called on former Attorneys General Jeff Sessions and William Barr to testify before Congress about their knowledge of the DOJ probes.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has also said the Justice Department will tighten the rules surrounding how it can seize congressional data to protect the separation of powers.