Former President Donald Trump’s Justice Department reportedly seized files on a dozen people linked to two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee in an attempt to uncover who disclosed to reporters classified information about the relations of Trump with Russia.
DOJ prosecutors subpoenaed Apple and another internet service provider in 2017 and 2018 over data from the accounts of Democrats, their aides and family members – one of whom was a minor, according to a New York report. Times published Thursday.
One of the lawmakers identified in the report is Representative Adam Schiff (Calif.), Who was the first Democrat on the House committee 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 other people briefed on the investigation.
As the House’s main intelligence watchdog, the committee has regular access to sensitive government information.
According to the Times, attorneys for then Attorney General Jeff Sessions were looking for sources for reporting on communications between Trump’s associates and Russia. The Justice Department has reportedly subpoenaed communications metadata from lawmakers, their aides and families – an unprecedented move when it comes to leak investigations.
The department also got a gag order on Apple that expired this year, leading the company last month to notify those whose data was affected that their records had been shared, according to the Times.
The files ultimately did not link the committee to the leaks, and investigators reportedly discussed the possibility of closing the investigation – until William Bar took over as attorney general a year later.
Barr assigned a trusted New Jersey attorney with little relevant experience to work on the Schiff-related case along with about half a dozen others, according to the Times, citing three anonymous people with knowledge of his work.
The Times report follows weeks of revelation about Trump’s Justice Department efforts to seize phone records of reporters from at least three major news organizations – the Times, CNN and the Washington Post – which also implicated to issue gag orders against media executives.
The news, which drew criticism that the government was infringing on press freedom, was aimed at trying to identify the journalists’ confidential sources.
President Joe Biden promised the press that such acts against them would not take place under his administration.
Responding to the Times report, Schiff said Trump had “repeatedly and blatantly called for the Justice Department to carry out its political will” and attempted to use the department as “a stick against its political opponents and members of the media ”.
“It is increasingly evident that these demands have not been heeded,” Schiff said in his statement. “The politicization of the department and attacks on the rule of law are among the most dangerous attacks on our democracy carried out by the former president.”
Schiff said the Justice Department informed him last month that his committee’s investigation was closed, but called on his independent Inspector General to investigate the case and others who “suggest the militarization of law enforcement by a corrupt president “.
A spokesperson for the current Justice Department did not immediately respond to HuffPost.
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