Jun 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Schiff calls for investigation after NYT report on seized data by Trump DOJ

Rep. Adam Schiff

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. Photo: Tom Williams / Getty Images

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) called for an inspector general investigation into Donald Trump's "weaponization of law enforcement," after the New York Times reported the Justice Department subpoenaed Apple for data from the congressman's account.

Driving the news: At least a dozen people linked to the Intelligence Committee had records seized between 2017 and early 2018, including Schiff, who at the time was the panel's top Democrat and now serves as its chairman, The Times reported, citing people briefed on the inquiry.

Why it matters: The revelation comes alongside recent disclosures that the Trump administration secretly seized the phone records of CNN, Washington Post and New York Times reporters.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi echoed Schiff's call for an investigation.
  • "These actions appear to be yet another egregious assault on our democracy waged by the former president," she said in a statement.

The state of play: Justice Department prosecutors, under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, were looking for the sources behind leaks describing contacts between associates of former President Trump and Russia.

  • "Ultimately, the data and other evidence did not tie the committee to the leaks, and investigators debated whether they had hit a dead end and some even discussed closing the inquiry," The Times writes.
  • "The zeal in the Trump administration’s efforts to hunt leakers led to the extraordinary step of subpoenaing communications metadata from members of Congress — a nearly unheard-of move outside of corruption investigations," the newspaper adds.
  • Apple turned over metadata and account information, per the Times.

The DOJ obtained a gag order on Apple that expired earlier this year, a person familiar with the inquiry told the Times, so lawmakers were unaware of the investigation until the tech giant informed them in May.

What they're saying: "President Trump 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," Schiff wrote in a statement following the Times' Thursday night report.

  • "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," he said.
  • "Though we were informed by the Department in May that this investigation is closed, I believe more answers are needed, which is why I believe the Inspector General should investigate this and other cases that suggest the weaponization of law enforcement by a corrupt president.”
  • The Justice Department declined to comment.
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