The U.S. Department of Justice is seen on Friday. Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images hide caption
Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images
Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images
The House of Representatives’ Democratic-led Judiciary Committee will launch an investigation into efforts by the Trump-era US Department of Justice to seize metadata from devices belonging to Congressmen, journalists and the then White House attorney.
The news of the partisan investigation came as current attorney general Merrick Garland said the DOJ would “strengthen” its record keeping policy from lawmakers.
Developments follow the recent revocation of gag orders, which exposed the use of subpoenas by the Trump administration’s Department of Justice.
The department secretly sued Apple in February 2018 for account information of the then White House attorney, Don McGahn and his wife, and secured a gag order prohibiting the tech giant from telling them, anyone familiar with the matter said Ryan Lucas of NPRPR.
Apple notified the McGahns of the subpoena last month after the gag arrangement expired, Lucas reported on Sunday.
And last week it is surfaced that the Trump-era Justice Department also subpoenaed Apple for metadata from at least two Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee – Reps Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both from California – as well as the details of some of their co-workers and family members.
As Lucas reported, the subpoena was “part of an aggressive push by the Justice Department to find the source of classified information leaks in the early years of the Trump administration. There is no evidence that the subpoenaed material linked the committee to the media leaks. “
Schiff and Swalwell were harsh critics of former President Donald Trump, and their committee examined possible links between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.
“Recent reports suggest that the Justice Department used a criminal investigation during the Trump administration as an excuse to spy on President Trump’s perceived political enemies,” House Chairman Jerrold Nadler, DN.Y., said in a statement announcing the committee’s investigation. “It remains possible that these cases – which now include Congressmen, members of the press and President Trump’s own lawyer in the White House – are isolated cases. While these reports are entirely independent, they raise serious constitutional and separation of powers concerns. “
These efforts by the House are not unexpected. Democratic Senate leaders have also called for a Congressional inquiry into the DOJ’s practices and former Attorney General William Barr and Jeff Sessions to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Speaking in the Senate on Monday, minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Said labeled Democrats urge Barr and Sessions to testify “politically motivated”.
The Inspector General of the Ministry of Justice also did announced an investigation of data seizures.
“There are important issues that need to be resolved in connection with the division’s efforts to maintain records of members of Congress and Congress staff,” Garland said in a statement Monday. He added, in response to the Inspector General’s inquiry, “If at any point in the course of the investigation action is warranted in relation to the matter in question, I will not hesitate to act quickly.”
Garland added that, while that review is pending, he has asked Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco “to evaluate and strengthen the Legislative’s Record Preservation Department’s existing policies and procedures”.
Garland also met with executives from The New York Times, CNN and The Washington Post on Monday after it was revealed that the department had seized phone and email records for reporters at these outlets – apparently as – during the Trump administration Part of a hunt for the source of government leaks.
“As previously announced, the department will no longer have a mandatory process to obtain source information from reporters when they are doing their job,” the DOJ said in a reading from Monday’s meeting. “The group had a productive conversation about the need for new rules to implement the policy change.”
“While we welcome the new policy that fails to use mandatory legal procedures to confiscate reporters’ records during leak investigations, we believe steps need to be taken to ensure that it is permanent and binding on future administrations,” said the Washington Post editor, Fred Ryan, in an explanation. “It is also important that there is a full and complete public record of all actions taken against our news organizations, including secret subpoenas and gag orders, and an explanation of what happened to the information that was seized.”