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The House Judiciary Committee will launch an investigation into Trump-era secret subpoenas issued by the Justice Department that surveilled journalists, lawmakers, and their staff.
“Congress must make it extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, for the Department to spy on the Congress or the news media,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, in a statement Monday. “We should make it hard for prosecutors to hide behind secret gag orders for years at a time. We cannot rely on the department alone to make these changes.”
The House panel could issue subpoenas if key former Justice Department officials refuse to testify.
Democrats are demanding former attorneys general Jeff Sessions and William Barr testify under oath. Senate Democrats have threatened to subpoena the pair, but the Senate Judiciary Committee is evenly divided by party and will likely lack the majority vote needed to authorize their testimony.
The House Judiciary Committee, on the other hand, is stacked with several more Democrats and will easily be able to approve subpoenas.
Several news stories in recent weeks revealed Justice Department surveillance of Congress and the media during the Trump administration that was carried out to determine sources of information leaks.
Nadler said in Monday’s statement it is possible the recent revelations of Trump-era spying by the Justice Department “are merely our first glimpse into a coordinated effort by the Trump administration to target President Trump’s political opposition.”
He added: “If so, we must learn the full extent of this gross abuse of power, root out the individuals responsible, and hold those individuals accountable for their actions.”
The Justice Department inspector general is investigating the matter, but Democrats also want to conduct their own investigation.
“We cannot wait for the Inspector General to share even his preliminary findings with DOJ, some months or years from now, before Congress contemplates a response,” Nadler said.
Earlier Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed threats by Schumer that the Senate would subpoena Barr and Sessions.
McConnell pointed to Democrats’ lack of interest in the Obama administration’s secret surveillance of Trump’s 2016 campaign and said Barr was not even working for the Justice Department when the subpoenas of congressional staff were issued.
Those subpoenas swept up phone data belonging to Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff and panel member Eric Swalwell, both California Democrats.
“Any outrage from Democrats that alleged criminal leaks within their own ranks rightly drew the attention of federal investigators rings, completely hollow,” said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.
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Original Author: Susan Ferrechio