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How Apple, Google, and Microsoft reacted to Trump-era DOJ subpoenas and requests for data on political rivals and journalists

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Apple CEO Tim Cook showing President Donald Trump a computer part.
Apple CEO Tim Cook with former President Donald Trump in 2019. Tom Brenner/Reuters
  • The Trump-era Justice Department requested data from Apple, Google, and Microsoft on his rivals.

  • Rep. Eric Swalwell, whose data was sought, said Trump acted like the "most despicable dictators."

  • Here's how each company responded to the legal requests.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

During President Donald Trump's years in the White House, the Department of Justice requested information from tech companies about his Democrat rivals in Congress and members of the press.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, whose data had been sought, said in a statement on Friday: "Like many of the world's most despicable dictators, former President Trump showed an utter disdain for our democracy and the rule of law."

Some of the world's biggest tech companies - including Google, Apple, and Microsoft - received subpoenas or other record requests for information held by accounts belonging to the press, members of Congress, their staff members, or their families.

This is how each company reacted to those legal requests:

Apple

An Apple spokesperson on Friday said the company received grand jury subpoenas for 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, according to TechCrunch's Zack Whittaker. Apple handed over "account subscriber information and did not provide any content such as emails or pictures."

The company turned over metadata relating to Swalwell and Rep. Adam Schiff, according to statements from both politicians, who were among Trump's political opponents.

Apple on Friday told CNBC that the grand jury subpoena included a gag order, keeping Apple from telling customers about the requests. The requests didn't include information about the investigation, CNBC reported.

Swalwell said he was notified by Apple last month.

"In May, I was notified by Apple that my records were among those sought by - and turned over to - the Trump Administration as part of a politically motivated investigation into his perceived enemies," he said on Friday.

Google

The Trump administration's DOJ sought email logs from Google relating to four reporters at The New York Times. That request also came with a gag order, according to The Times. The newspaper reported that "no records were obtained."

Press Secretary Jen Psaki in a June 5 statement said the White House hadn't been made aware of the gag order.

"While the White House does not intervene in criminal investigations, the issuing of subpoenas for the records of reporters in leak investigations is not consistent with the President's policy direction to the Department, and the Department of Justice has reconfirmed it will not be used moving forward," she said.

Lawyers for the newspaper have filed a request to unseal the Trump-era DOJ filings preceding the data requests, The Times reported this week.

"These orders represent an extraordinary challenge to press freedom, undermining the ability of the press to report truthful information of vital public concern," the newspaper's court filing said.

Microsoft

Microsoft in 2017 received a subpoena for a congressional staff member's personal email account, a company spokesperson said via email. The staffer hasn't been identified.

The spokesperson said the company believes "customers have a constitutional right to know when the government requests their email or documents, and we have a right to tell them."

The spokesperson added: "In this case, we were prevented from notifying the customer for more than two years because of a gag order. As soon as the gag order expired, we notified the customer who told us they were a congressional staffer."

Microsoft also took an extra step, providing a briefing to the representative's staff.

"We will continue to aggressively seek reform that imposes reasonable limits on government secrecy in cases like this," the spokesperson said.

Insider has reached out to Apple and Google for additional information.

Schiff on Friday called for an investigation into the Trump-era DOJ by the independent Inspector General, saying that office's investigating would be "just the start."

"We need a full accounting of the Trump DOJ's abuse of power targeting Congress and the press," Schiff said on Twitter on Friday.

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