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Trump DOJ Seized Data From House Dems  06/11 06:22

   The Justice Department under former President Donald Trump seized data from 
the accounts of at least two members of the House Intelligence Committee in 
2018 as part of an aggressive crackdown on leaks related to the Russia 
investigation and other national security matters, according to a committee 
official and two people familiar with the investigation.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Justice Department under former President Donald 
Trump seized data from the accounts of at least two members of the House 
Intelligence Committee in 2018 as part of an aggressive crackdown on leaks 
related to the Russia investigation and other national security matters, 
according to a committee official and two people familiar with the 
investigation.

   Prosecutors from Trump's Justice Department subpoenaed Apple for the data, 
according to the people, who were granted anonymity to discuss the secret 
seizures first reported by The New York Times.

   The records of at least twelve people connected to the intelligence panel 
were eventually shared, including Chairman Adam Schiff, who was then the top 
Democrat on the committee. California Rep. Eric Swalwell was the second member, 
according to spokeswoman Natalie Edelstein. The records of aides, former aides 
and family members were also siezed, including one who was a minor, according 
to the committee official.

   Apple informed the committee last month that their records had been shared, 
but did not give extensive detail. The committee is aware, though, that 
metadata from the accounts was turned over, the official said. The records do 
not contain any other content from the devices, like photos, messages or 
emails, one of the other people said. The third person said that Apple complied 
with the subpoena, providing the information to the Justice Department, and did 
not immediately notify the members of Congress or the committee about the 
disclosure.

   While the Justice Department routinely conducts investigations of leaked 
information, including classified intelligence, opening such an investigation 
into members of Congress is extraordinarily rare.

   The Trump administration's attempt to secretly gain access to data of 
individual members of Congress and others connected to the panel came as the 
president was fuming publicly and privately over investigations -- in Congress 
and by then-special counsel Robert Mueller -- into his campaign's ties to 
Russia. Trump called the probes a "witch hunt," regularly criticized Schiff and 
other Democrats on Twitter and repeatedly dismissed as "fake news" leaks he 
found personally harmful to his agenda. As the investigations swirled around 
him, he demanded loyalty from a Justice Department he often regarded as his 
personal law firm.

   House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement that "these 
actions appear to be yet another egregious assault on our democracy" waged by 
the former president.

   "The news about the politicization of the Trump Administration Justice 
Department is harrowing," she said.

   Schiff, now the panel's chair, confirmed in a statement Thursday evening 
that the Justice Department had informed the committee in May that the 
investigation was closed. Still, he said, "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 told the intelligence panel then that the matter had 
not transferred to any other entity or investigative body, the committee 
official said, and the department confirmed that to the committee again on 
Thursday.

   The panel has continued to seek additional information, but the Justice 
Department has not been forthcoming in a timely manner, including on questions 
such as whether the investigation was properly predicated and whether it only 
targeted Democrats, the committee official said.

   It is unclear why Trump's Justice Department would have targeted a minor as 
part of the probe. Swalwell, confirming that he was told his records were 
siezed, told CNN Thursday evening that he was aware a minor was involved and "I 
believe they were targeted punitively and not for any reason in law."

   Another Democrat on the intelligence panel, Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley, said 
he did not find it even "remotely surprising" that Trump went after committee 
members' records during the Russia probe.

   "From my first days as part of the Russia investigation, I expected that 
eventually, someone would attempt this -- I just wasn't sure if it would be a 
hostile government or my own," Quigley said.

   There's no indication that the Justice Department used the records to 
prosecute anyone. After some of the information was declassified and made 
public during the later years of the Trump administration, there was concern 
among some of the prosecutors that even if they could bring a leak case, trying 
it would be difficult and a conviction would be unlikely, one of the people 
said. Federal agents questioned at least one former committee staff member in 
2020, the person said, and ultimately, prosecutors weren't able to substantiate 
a case.

   The news follows revelations that the Justice Department had secretly seized 
phone records belonging to reporters at The New York Times, The Washington Post 
and CNN as part of criminal leak investigations. Following an outcry from press 
freedom organizations, the Justice Department announced last week that it would 
cease the practice of going after journalists' sourcing information.

 
 
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