Congress, Justice Dept. probing Trump seizures of Dems’ data

In this May 28, 2019 file photo, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., left, and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., speak with members of the media on Capitol Hill in Washington.

In this May 28, 2019 file photo, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., left, and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., speak with members of the media on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Justice Department under former President Donald Trump secretly seized data from the accounts of at least two Democratic lawmakers in 2018 as part of an aggressive crackdown on leaks related to the Russia investigation and other national security matters, according to three people familiar with the seizures. | AP

The announcement by Inspector General Michael Horowitz came shortly after Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco made the request Friday

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department’s internal watchdog launched an investigation Friday after revelations that former President Donald Trump’s administration secretly seized phone data from at least two House Democrats as part of an aggressive leaks probe. Democrats called the seizures a “shocking” abuse of power.

The announcement by Inspector General Michael Horowitz came shortly after Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco made the request Friday. Horowitz said he would examine whether the data turned over by Apple followed department policy and “whether any such uses, or the investigations, were based upon improper considerations.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and another Democratic member of the panel, California Rep. Eric Swalwell, said Apple notified them last month that their metadata had been subpoenaed and turned over to the Justice Department in 2018, as their committee was investigating the former president’s ties to Russia. Schiff was then the top Democrat on the panel, then led by Republicans.

While the Justice Department routinely investigates leaked information, including classified intelligence, subpoenaing the private information of members of Congress is extraordinarily rare. The disclosures, first reported by the New York Times, raise questions about what the Justice Department’s justification was for spying on another branch of government and whether it was done for political reasons.

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The Trump administration’s attempt to secretly gain access to the data 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 Democrats and Mueller on Twitter and repeatedly dismissed as “fake news” leaks he found 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.

Schiff and Swalwell were two of the most visible Democrats on the committee during the Russia probe, making frequent appearances on cable news. Trump watched those channels closely, if not obsessively, and seethed over the coverage.

Schiff said in a statement that the seizures suggest “the weaponization of law enforcement by a corrupt president.”

Senate Democratic leaders immediately demanded that former Attorneys General Bill Barr and Jeff Sessions, who both oversaw Trump’s leak probes, testify about the secret subpoenas. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin said in a statement that “this appalling politicization of the Department of Justice by Donald Trump and his sycophants” must be investigated. …read more

Source:: Chicago Sun Times

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