June 14, 2021

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Trump DOJ seized Apple data from Adam Schiff, other House Democrats

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During the Trump administration, the Department of Justice launched an investigation into leaks of classified information, and subpoenaed Apple for data from accounts belonging to members of the House Intelligence Committee, their aides, and family members, The New York Times reports. One of the people involved was Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), then the top Democrat on the committee and a vocal critic of former President Donald Trump.

In 2017 and 2018, the records of 12 people with connections to the committee — including a minor — were seized, several people with knowledge of the matter told the Times. The investigation began under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, with prosecutors tasked with figuring out who was leaking information about contacts Trump associates had with Russian officials. 

They looked at national security officials who were part of the Obama administration, five people familiar with the matter told the Times, and while most were ruled out, the DOJ opened cases focusing on then-FBI Director James Comey and his deputy, Andrew McCabe. Apple only passed along metadata and account information, the Times reports, and was put under a gag order, which expired this year. In May, the company notified lawmakers to tell them about the leak investigation, the Times reports. 

People familiar with the matter said there was no evidence connecting the House Intelligence Committee to the leaks, but the probe was revived when William Barr became attorney general and prosecutors doubled down on trying to figure out who leaked information about Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, and his contacts with then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

The Times writes that the DOJ routinely investigates leaks, but it was “extraordinary” for the DOJ to subpoena “communications metadata from members of Congress — a nearly unheard-of move outside of corruptions investigations.” David Laufman, a former Justice Department official who worked on leak investigations, told the Times that Trump had “an unmistakeable vendetta against Congressman Schiff,” and this “raises serious questions about whether the manner in which this investigation was conducted was influenced by political considerations rather than purely legal ones.” 

Schiff told the Times he was told last month that the investigation into the House Intelligence Committee had been closed. He called the probe another example of Trump using the Justice Department as “a cudgel against his political opponents and members of the media. It is increasingly apparent that those demands did not fall on deaf ears. 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.” Read more at The New York Times.

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