Former President Donald Trump’s Justice Department reportedly seized records on a dozen people connected to two House Intelligence Committee Democrats in an effort to find out who leaked classified information about Trump’s relationship with Russia to reporters.
The DOJ’s prosecutors subpoenaed Apple and one another internet service provider in 2017 and 2018 for data from the accounts of the Democrats, their aides and family members ― one of whom was a minor, according to a New York Times report published Thursday.
One of the lawmakers identified in the report is Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), who served as the House committee’s top Democrat at the time of the subpoenas and is currently its chairman. The other Democrat was not identified, but had also been a member of the committee, the Times reported, citing committee officials and two others briefed on the inquiry.
As the House’s main intelligence oversight body, the committee has regular access to sensitive government information.
According to the Times, prosecutors under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions were looking for the sources of news reports about communications between Trump associates and Russia. The DOJ reportedly subpoenaed communications metadata of lawmakers, their aides and their families ― a move unheard of when it comes to leak investigations.
The department also secured a gag order on Apple that expired this year, leading the company last month to inform those whose data was affected that their records had been shared, according to the Times.
The records ultimately did not tie the committee to the leaks, and investigators reportedly discussed potentially closing the inquiry ― until William Bar took over as attorney general a year later.
Barr assigned a trusted prosecutor in New Jersey with little relevant experience to work on the Schiff-related case along with about a half-dozen others, according to the Times, citing three anonymous people with knowledge of his work.
The Times report follows weeks of revelations about the Trump Justice Department’s efforts to seize the phone records of reporters from at least three major news organizations ― the Times, CNN and The Washington Post ― which also involved taking gag orders out on the outlets’ executives.
The news, which sparked criticism that the government was intruding on press freedoms, was meant to try and identify reporters’ confidential sources.
President Joe Biden has pledged to the press that such acts against them will not take place under his administration.
In response to the Times report, Schiff said that Trump had “repeatedly and flagrantly demanded that the Department of Justice carry out his political will,” and tried to use the department as a “cudgel against his political opponents and members of the media.”
“It is increasingly apparent that those demands did not” go unheard, Schiff said in his statement. “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.”
Schiff said that the Justice Department informed him last month the investigation into his committee was closed, but he called on its independent inspector general to investigate the case and others that “suggest the weaponization of law enforcement by a corrupt president.”
A spokesperson for the current Justice Department did not immediately reply to HuffPost.