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'I believe the Inspector General should investigate this and other cases that suggest the weaponization of law enforcement by a corrupt president,' said Rep. Adam Schiff.

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-CA) 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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Tags: adam schiff apple department of justice donald trump eric swalwell mike quigley nancy pelosi russia investigation subpoenas trump’s justice department justice department trump’s justice the trump administration the russia investigation the trump administration the justice department justice the investigation thursday evening members of congress the new york times seized data according to the committee connected former president the information democrat as part in a statement the records the committee committee congress including at least person said the records it would be some that he people said adam schiff

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Top DOJ National Security Official Reportedly Resigning Amid News Of Seizures, Gag Orders

John Demers, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) top national security official, is reportedly resigning amid news that the department issued seizures and gag orders to obtain records from the press and Democratic lawmakers.

Demers will leave by the end of next week, a DOJ official said according to The Associated Press. U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of New York Mark Lesko will reportedly replace Demers, according to the official.

Democratic California Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, who sit on the House Intelligence Committee, were targets of subpoenas – sent to Apple to obtain metadata – approved in 2017 and 2018, according to The New York Times. Staffers and family members were also reportedly subpoenaed and a gag order was used, meaning Apple couldn’t inform the congressmen of the situation, the NYT noted.

Demers’ upcoming resignation comes just after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pushed for the national security official to appear before Congress. Schumer threatened a subpoena if Demers didn’t voluntarily appear, according to the AP.

Demers has led the DOJ’s national security division since February 2018. This division was involved in the various leak investigations under former President Donald Trump, the AP added.

Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division John Demers speaks at a news conference at the Department of Justice, October 19, 2020, in Washington, DC. (ANDREW HARNIK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The DOJ also employed gag orders on journalistic companies in an effort to hunt down leaks. The NYT reported June 4 that the Trump administration and President Joe Biden’s administration used gag orders in an effort to prevent newspaper heads from revealing a leak investigation surrounding former FBI Director James Comey.

Four reporters working for the NYT had their emails subpoenaed by the DOJ amid that investigation. Phone logs for The Washington Post reporters were also seized during Trump’s administration, as was the email logs for a CNN reporter, according to the NYT.

The DOJ announced it “will not seek compulsory legal process in leak investigations to obtain source information from members of the news media doing their jobs” one day after news of the NYT’s gag order. The DOJ’s new stance came after Biden declared he “won’t let that happen” when asked about such seizures in May.

“Absolutely, positively, it’s wrong. It’s simply, simply wrong,” Biden said at the time. (RELATED: Trump Jr. Says There’s a ‘99.9% Chance’ Rep. Adam Schiff Leaked His Intel Committee Testimony)

Attorney General Merrick Garland called for “a thorough and independent investigation” in a statement Monday and noted that “political or other improper considerations must play no role in any investigative or prosecutorial decisions.”

“These principles that have long been held as sacrosanct by the DOJ career workforce will be vigorously guarded on my watch, and any failure to live up to them will be met with strict accountability,” Garland said. “There are important questions that must be resolved in connection with an effort by the department to obtain records related to Members of Congress and Congressional staff.”

“I have accordingly directed that the matter be referred to the Inspector General and have full confidence that he will conduct a thorough and independent investigation. If at any time as the investigation proceeds action related to the matter in question is warranted, I will not hesitate to move swiftly,” he added.

Garland also noted that he’s instructed the deputy attorney general “to evaluate and strengthen the department’s existing policies and procedures for obtaining records of the Legislative branch.”

“Consistent with our commitment to the rule of law, we must ensure that full weight is accorded to separation-of-powers concerns moving forward,” Garland declared.

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