Congress and Justice Department investigate Donald Trump data entry of Democrats – Times of India

WASHINGTON: Justice Department’s internal watchdog opened an investigation Friday after revelations the former president Donald trumpthe administration secretly seized the telephone data of at least two lodge Democrats in an aggressive investigation into the leaks. Democrats called the seizures of abuse of power “shocking.”
Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s announcement came shortly after Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco made the request on Friday. Horowitz said he would examine whether the data transmitted by Apple followed departmental policy and “whether such uses or investigations were based on improper considerations”.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif, and another Democratic panel member, California Representative Eric Swalwell, said Apple informed them last month that their metadata had been subpoenaed. and handed over to the Justice Ministry in 2018, while their committee was investigating the former president’s ties to Russia. Schiff was then the first Democrat on the then Republican-led panel.
While the Justice Department regularly investigates leaked information, including classified information, subpoenaing the private information of members of the Congress is extraordinarily rare. The disclosures, first reported by the New York Times, raise questions about the justice ministry’s justification for spying on another branch of government and whether this was done for political reasons.
The Trump administration’s attempt to covertly gain access to the data came as the President ranted publicly and privately about investigations – in Congress and by then-Special Advocate Robert Mueller – into the links to his campaign with Russia. Trump called the investigations a “witch hunt,” regularly criticized Democrats and Mueller on Twitter, and repeatedly called the leaks “fake news” he found harmful to his agenda. As investigations revolved around him, he demanded the loyalty of a justice department he often viewed as his personal law firm.
Schiff and Swalwell were two of the committee’s most visible Democrats during the Russia Inquiry, making frequent appearances in cable news. Trump watched these channels closely, if not obsessively, and boiled over the cover.
Schiff said in a statement that the seizures suggest “the militarization of law enforcement by a corrupt president.”
Senate Democratic leaders immediately demanded that former attorneys general Bill Barr and Jeff Sessions, who both oversaw the Trump leak investigations, testify to 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 Justice Department by Donald Trump and his sycophants” must do the trick. under investigation. They said Barr and Sessions are subpoenaed if they refuse.
Trump’s Justice Department prosecutors had subpoenaed Apple for the data, according to a committee official and two others familiar with the case. The files of at least 12 people linked to the intelligence group were eventually shared by the company, including assistants, former assistants and family members. One was a minor.
Apple informed the committee last month that the cases had been shared and the investigation had been closed, but did not give detailed details. The head of the committee and the two other people with knowledge of the data entries were granted anonymity to discuss it.
The Justice Department obtained the metadata – often recordings of calls, texts and locations – but not other content from the devices, such as photos, messages or emails, according to one of the people. . Another said Apple complied with the subpoena, providing the information to the Justice Department, and did not immediately notify members of Congress or the committee of the disclosure.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, said in a statement that the data entries “appeared to be another blatant attack on our democracy” led by the former president.
“The news regarding the politicization of the Trump administration’s justice department is heartbreaking,” she said.
The committee official said the panel continued to seek additional information, but the Justice Department failed to answer questions such as whether the investigation was properly founded and whether it was focused only on Democrats.
It is not known why Trump’s Justice Department allegedly targeted a minor as part of the investigation. Swalwell, confirming that he was told his files had been seized, said CNN Thursday evening, he knew that a minor was involved and believed that this person was “targeted in a punitive manner and without any legal reason”.
The Senate Intelligence Committee was not targeted in the same way, according to a fourth person who was aware of the investigation and granted anonymity to discuss it.
There is no indication that the Department of Justice used the files to prosecute anyone. After some information was declassified and made public during the last years of the Trump administration, some of the prosecutors feared that even if they could file a leak case, trying it would be difficult and a conviction would be unlikely, l one of the people said.
Federal agents interviewed at least one former committee staff member in 2020, the person said, and ultimately prosecutors were unable to substantiate a case.
The news follows revelations that the Justice Department secretly seized telephone tapes belonging to reporters at The New York Times, The Washington post and CNN in connection with criminal investigations into the leaks. Following an outcry from press freedom organizations, the Justice Ministry announced last week that it would stop targeting journalists’ search for information.

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