Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) on Thursday decried the latest example of the “weaponization” of the Trump Justice Department against the former president’s political enemies after The New York Times reported that the agency had subpoenaed Apple for metadata on some Democratic lawmakers, their aides and family members.
“It violates, I think, the separation of powers, but it also makes the Department of Justice a fully owned subsidiary of the president’s personal legal interests,” Schiff said in an MSNBC interview urging for an inquiry into the matter late Thursday.
Committee officials and two other people briefed on the inquiry told the Times that the records of at least a dozen people tied to the committee were seized in 2017 and early 2018, including those of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) who is now its chairman.
During a CNN interview on Thursday, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) said he had also been notified that his data had been subpoenaed. The records of a minor were also reportedly subpoenaed.
“I believe they were targeted punitively, not for any reason in law but because Donald Trump identified Chairman Schiff and members of the committee as an enemy of his,” Swalwell said of the committee members targeted in the investigation.
According to the Times, prosecutors under attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had been hoping to sniff out sources behind news reports about contacts between Trump associates and Russia. At the time the Intelligence Committee was investigating Russian interference into the 2016 election and interviewing witnesses. A top Democrat on the committee, Schiff emerged during that period as a prominent critic of the president. Trump, in turn, repeatedly urged for Schiff and others to be investigated. Prosecutors at the time failed to identify leaks tied to the committee, the Times said.
The investigation was revived, though, under now former attorney general Bill Barr who reportedly moved a New Jersey prosecutor, Osmar Benvenuto, to the Justice Department’s National Security Division in February 2020 where he would work on the case, the Times said.
According to the Times, the Justice Department secured a gag order on Apple that expired this year and the company informed the people whose records had been subpoenaed last month.
In a separate statement, Schiff said: “President Trump repeatedly and flagrantly demanded that the Department of Justice carry out his political will, and 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. 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 also urged further investigation into the DOJ’s hunt.
“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,” he said.