Trump admin seized data from two Democratic legislators: Report

Prosecutors in the Justice Department seized data from Apple on two Democratic lawmakers, according to NY Times.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff was reportedly one of two Democrats whose communication information was seized by the Justice Department under President Donald Trump. [File:J Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press]

Prosecutors in the United States Justice Department under former President Donald Trump seized data from Apple on two Democratic lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee, as well as that of their staff and family members, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

Subpoenas for the communications metadata targeted congressman Adam Schiff of California, a Trump foe who was then the panel’s top Democrat and now its chairman, the paper said.

The record seizures came in 2017 and early 2018 as the department investigated leaks of classified information relating to contacts between the Trump administration and the Russian government, according to the newspaper.

Congressman Eric Swalwell told CNN on Thursday he was the second Democratic lawmaker on the committee who was targeted.

“I was notified … by Apple that they did seize my records. It’s wrong,” he said.

One of the family members targeted was a minor, the paper reported.

According to the Times, prosecutors working under then-attorney general Jeff Sessions made unusual efforts to find the source of the leaks of classified information.

The Justice Department officials targeted electronic data not only of the legislators, but that of their staff and families, possibly targeting a minor because investigators thought the legislators were using their associates’ or children’s devices to hide contacts with journalists.

The Justice Department and Apple have not yet commented on the report.

Ultimately, none of the data or other evidence tied the legislators or the House Intelligence Committee to the leaks, the Times said.

But the leak investigations were revived by the attorney general, Bill Barr, a year later, the paper reported.

The seizure of such records has rarely been seen outside of corruption investigations.

‘Weaponisation of law enforcement’

Schiff, while not confirming he was a target of the investigation, called for a probe by the Justice Department’s inspector general into “this and other cases that suggest the weaponisation 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. It is increasingly apparent that those demands did not fall on deaf ears,” Schiff said in a statement.

Top Democrat Nancy Pelosi also called for an investigation, describing the New York Times report as “harrowing”.

“These actions appear to be yet another egregious assault on our democracy waged by the former president,” she said in a statement.

The Justice Department placed a gag order on Apple that expired this year, meaning legislators were unaware of the probes until the tech giant notified them last month, according to the paper.

Schiff, who led the Democratic prosecutorial team during Trump’s first Senate impeachment trial in early 2020, has long railed against the former president, calling him “dangerous”.

He made the case in early 2020 for Trump to be removed from office for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Trump was later acquitted. He was later impeached by the House, and acquitted by the Senate, for his alleged role in inciting rioters who stormed the US capitol on January 6, 2021.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies