Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats are demanding a briefing from Attorney General Merrick Garland on seizures of records belonging to high-profile Trump critics in Congress.
In the Monday letter, Democrats said they want copies of the original subpoenas sent for Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA), communications about the metadata collection, and answers to key questions from Garland.
Committee chair Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and ten other Democrats on the panel authored the letter, calling the seizure of data from Apple a “grave assault on a co-equal branch of government.”
The letter follows revelations that the Justice Department obtained a grand jury subpoena for records from House Intelligence Committee members Schiff and Swalwell, as well as their staff and family members, in 2017 and 2018 under then-attorney general Jeff Sessions. The seizures reportedly came as part of a probe into leaks of classified government information.
At least one of the family members whose records were seized was a minor.
In February 2020, the New York Times reported, attorney general Bill Barr reignited the investigation, bringing in an outside prosecutor to investigate the case after determining that the DOJ’s national security division had let the cases “languish,” the paper said.
The information obtained was reportedly metadata that Apple held as a custodian, and not the content of any texts, emails, or phone calls.
Prosecutors also obtained metadata records belonging to former White House counsel Don McGahn via a grand jury, and got records belonging to journalists from CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post as part of the inquiries.
President Trump had spent much of his sole term in office calling for leakers to be aggressively prosecuted while berating the attorneys general that worked for him for moving too slowly on the probes.
“Somebody please tell incompetent (thanks for my high poll numbers) & corrupt politician Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff to stop leaking Classified information or, even worse, made up information, to the Fake News Media,” Trump tweeted in February 2020. “Someday he will be caught, & that will be a very unpleasant experience!”
The Senate Democrats want a meeting with Garland, and asked him to provide information about what factual predicate prosecutors relied on to open the investigations.
They also asked whether other members of Congress apart from Schiff and Swalwell had had their records seized in the probes, and whether the DOJ’s office of legal counsel had provided any guidance on the moves.