Former President Donald Trump repeatedly and flagrantly demanded that the Department of Justice carry out his political will and tried to use the DOJ as a cudgel against his political opponents and media members, according to U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee.
“It is increasingly apparent that those demands did not fall on deaf ears. The politicization of the Department and the attacks on the rule of law are among the most dangerous assaults on our democracy carried out by the former president,” Schiff said.
The congressman’s comments came amid a New York Times report that revealed prosecutors subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, aides, and family members.
One was a minor, the Times reported.
“All told, the records of at least a dozen people tied to the committee were seized in 2017 and early 2018, including those of Schiff, then the panel’s top Democrat and now its chairman,” the newspaper reported, citing committee officials and two other people briefed on the inquiry.
Rep. Eric Swalwell of California also was notified that his data was subpoenaed.
The Times determined that prosecutors, under beleaguered Attorney General Jeff Sessions, “were hunting for the sources behind news media reports about contacts between Trump associates and Russia. Ultimately, the data and other evidence did not tie the committee to the leaks, and investigators debated whether they had hit a dead-end, and some even discussed closing the inquiry.”
But William P. Barr revived languishing leak investigations after he became attorney general a year later.
The newspaper concluded that Barr moved a trusted prosecutor from New Jersey with little relevant experience to the main Justice Department to work on the Schiff-related case and about a half-dozen others, according to three people with knowledge of his work who did not want to be identified discussing federal investigations.
“Though we were informed by the Department in May that this investigation is closed, 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,” Schiff wrote in a statement released on Friday, June 11.
The Times reported that the Intelligence Committee had investigated Russian interference into the 2016 election and interviewed witnesses behind closed doors.
Schiff and other Democrats on the committee became some of the most vocal critics of Trump in Congress, NBC News wrote.
Speaking to CNN, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), said Apple had told him that his records, too, had been sought.
Apple notified some members of the committee last month that their information had been included, NBC News reported, citing confirmation from a committee official.
Apple also notified current and former staff members and relatives, including a minor child, that their information had been subject to subpoenas, the official said.
The committee asked the Justice Department for more details and was informed last month that the matter had been closed, the official continued, NBC News said.
The investigation initially was launched, The Times reported, to find the source of leaks of classified information early in the Trump administration. Sessions began the inquiry, and Barr revived it.
The Times reported that, ultimately, the investigation did not connect anyone on the committee to the leaks.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., echoed Schiff’s call for an inquiry into the matter, calling it a “weaponization of law enforcement” by the former president.
“The news about the politicization of the Trump Administration Justice Department is harrowing. These actions appear to be yet another egregious assault on our democracy waged by the former President,” Speaker Pelosi said, according to NBC News.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), in a statement, said the pursuit of the phone records was “a direct attack on the separation of powers and Congressional independence” and called for an investigation of Sessions and Barr.
“There must be a full investigation of abuses under former Attorneys General Sessions and Barr, and anyone at DOJ who was complicit in these abuses of power cannot be trusted to continue serving in government,” the statement said.