Schiff calls for probe into Trump DOJ seizing House Democrats’ data
U.S. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) speaks to members of the media outside a closed session before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees at the U.S. Capitol on October 28, 2019 in Washington, DC. Also pictured are (L-R) Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA).
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House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., is demanding answers from the Department of Justice on the heels of a bombshell report that the Trump administration had secretly subpoenaed Apple for his data.
But the Biden administration has so far shared little with the committee about the Trump-era seizures of at least two House Democrats’ records, one frustrated official on the intelligence panel told NBC News.
“We have repeatedly posed basic and readily answerable questions to the Department for more than a month, but have received virtually no information beyond a confirmation that the investigation is closed,” the official told NBC on Friday.
“The Department’s refusal to provide information is unacceptable, and they will need to provide a full accounting of this and other instances in which law enforcement was weaponized against [former President] Donald Trump‘s political opponents,” the official said.
Schiff has called on the DOJ’s internal watchdog to investigate the Trump DOJ’s actions on “this and other cases that suggest the weaponization of law enforcement by a corrupt president.”
Trump “tried to use the Department as a cudgel against his political opponents and members of the media,” Schiff said in a statement shortly after the report came out Thursday night. “It is increasingly apparent that those demands did not fall on deaf ears.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., added Friday that Congress must seek testimony from Jeff Sessions and William Barr, two former attorney generals who served under Trump.
“If they refuse, they are subject to being subpoenaed and compelled to testify under oath,” Schumer and Durbin said in a joint statement.
The New York Times reported that Trump’s Justice Department in 2017 and early 2018 seized records from at least a dozen people linked to the House intelligence panel, including Schiff and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.
The agency reportedly also obtained data from the accounts of aides and family members, one of whom was a child.
Prosecutors in the DOJ, then helmed by Sessions, were searching for the sources of damaging news reports about contacts between Trump associates and Russia, the report said.
As Trump’s prosecutors probed the source of the leaks, they looked into the House Intelligence Committee, whose members have access to sensitive documents.
The investigation did not link the House committee to the leaks — but Barr after replacing Sessions kept the investigation going, the Times reported.
U.S. President Donald Trump, left, speaks to William Barr, U.S. attorney general, during the 38th annual National Peace Officers Memorial Day service at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., May 15, 2019.
Kevin Dietsch | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Apple was kept silent by a gag order that expired this year, according to the newspaper. Apple did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment about the Times’ report.
The Times’ article came weeks after reports that the Trump administration had secretly obtained records from journalists at multiple news outlets.
“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’s statement 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.”
Swalwell in a statement Thursday night said he had also been told last month by Apple that his records had been turned over to the Trump administration “as part of a politically motivated investigation into his perceived enemies.”
Swalwell said he backed Schiff’s call for the DOJ inspector general to investigate.
“Like many of the world’s most despicable dictators, former President Trump showed an utter disdain for our democracy and the rule of law,” Swalwell’s statement said.
“This kind of conduct is unacceptable, but unfortunately on brand for a president who has repeatedly shown he would cast aside our Constitution for his own personal gain.”
“The revelation that the Trump Justice Department secretly subpoenaed metadata of House Intelligence Committee Members and staff and their families, including a minor, is shocking,” Schumer and Durbin said in a joint statement Friday.
“This is a gross abuse of power and an assault on the separation of powers. This appalling politicization of the Department of Justice by Donald Trump and his sycophants must be investigated immediately by both the DOJ Inspector General and Congress,” the Senate leaders said.
“Former Attorneys General Barr and Sessions and other officials who were involved must testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath. If they refuse, they are subject to being subpoenaed and compelled to testify under oath,” Schumer and Durbin said.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., also joined the calls for a full investigation, and said he plans to introduce legislation to increase transparency and reform the “abuse of gag orders.”
“The current Justice Department needs to act with much greater urgency both to reveal abuses and ensure full accountability for those responsible,” Wyden said.