WASHINGTON (AP) – Former President Donald Trump’s Justice Department seized account data from at least two House Intelligence Committee members in 2018 as part of an aggressive crackdown on leaks linked to the investigation on Russia and other national security matters, according to a committee official and two people familiar with the investigation.
Trump’s Justice Department prosecutors have subpoenaed Apple for the data, according to people, who have been granted anonymity to discuss the secret seizures. The revelations were first reported by The New York Times.
The files of at least twelve people linked to the intelligence group were eventually seized, including President Adam Schiff, then the first Democrat on the committee. California Representative Eric Swalwell was the second member, according to spokeswoman Natalie Edelstein.
The files of assistants and family members were also shared, including a minor, according to the head of the committee. Apple informed the committee last month that their files had been shared, but did not give detailed details. The committee is aware, however, that account metadata has been handed over, the official said.
While the Justice Department routinely investigates leaks, including classified information, opening such an investigation into members of Congress is extraordinarily rare. The Trump administration’s attempt to covertly gain access to the data of individual members of Congress and others connected with the panel came as the President ranted against the investigations – in Congress and by the then special advocate, Robert Mueller – on his campaign’s links with Russia. Trump has called the investigations a “witch hunt” and has regularly criticized Schiff and other Democrats on Twitter.
“The news regarding the politicization of the Justice Department of the Trump administration is heartbreaking,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Said in a statement. “These actions appear to be another blatant attack on our democracy led by the former president.”
Schiff, now chairman of the panel, confirmed in a statement Thursday evening that the Justice Department informed the committee in May that the investigation was closed. Still, he said, “I think more answers are needed, which is why I think the Inspector General should investigate this case and others that suggest the militarization of law enforcement. by a corrupt president. “
The justice ministry informed the intelligence group in May that the case had not been transferred to any other investigative body or body, the committee official said, and the ministry confirmed it again today. hui.
The committee continued to seek additional information, but the Justice Department was not available in a timely manner, including on issues such as whether the investigation was properly founded and whether it only targeted democrats.
The news follows revelations that the Justice Department secretly seized telephone tapes belonging to reporters at the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN as part of criminal investigations into the leaks. Following an outcry from press freedom organizations, the Justice Ministry announced last week that it would stop targeting journalists’ search for information.
Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.