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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi voiced support for an inspector general investigation to look into actions taken by the Trump administration's Justice Department after news broke that federal prosecutors subpoenaed tech giant Apple for communications data from at least two House Intelligence Committee Democrats, including then-ranking member Adam Schiff, as well as their aides and family members.
Pelosi, a California Democrat, issued a statement Thursday night within moments of the New York Times reporting that Justice Department officials, in search of the sources of leaks about Trump associates and their relationships with Russia, seized the data of a dozen people in 2017 and 2018 who were associated with the House committee that was conducting its own investigation into Trump and Russia.
“The news about the politicization of the Trump Administration Justice Department is harrowing,” Pelosi said in a statement. “These actions appear to be yet another egregious assault on our democracy waged by the former president.”
“I support Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s call for an investigation into this situation and other acts of the weaponization of law enforcement by the former president,” Pelosi added. “Transparency is essential.”
Schiff, who is also a California Democrat, issued a statement on Thursday following the report’s publication calling for the department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, to investigate the matter.
“We’re obviously deeply suspicious of what the Justice Department was doing,” Schiff told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in an interview that followed. “More than that, this looks like a patent abuse of the department — yet another example of the president politicizing, using the DOJ as a cudgel to go after his enemies.”
California Rep. Eric Swalwell, another Intelligence Committee Democrat, said Thursday night that his data were also subpoenaed.
"I was notified, Don, by Apple, that they did seize my records," Swalwell told CNN's Don Lemon. "It's wrong. This is what they do, they smear and try and clear."
Both Schiff and Swalwell have been subjected to criticism by Trump over the years, and they served as impeachment managers in the Ukraine and Capitol riot related inquiries, respectively.
Schiff said he did not know whether the Justice Department subpoenaed the communications of Republicans on the House committee, nor did the report reveal that any Republican members' data was subject to seizure. The Justice Department has not publicly commented on the matter.
The New York Times reported data and other evidence obtained by the Justice Department did not tie the House Intelligence Committee to the leaks and it noted that Schiff said the agency told him in May that the inquiry into his panel had been closed.
Schiff insisted to MSNBC that Congress “will certainly have a role” in investigating Trump-era Justice Department subpoenas targeting committee members and journalists.
He also said Attorney General Merrick Garland needs to “clean house” at the Justice Department, as the report noted multiple officials who were involved in or briefed on the leak investigations in the Trump administration are still at the agency, including a prosecutor from New Jersey, Osmar Benvenuto, who was moved into the National Security Division by then-Attorney General William Barr to work on the Schiff-related cases and others.
The leak hunt began under Trump's first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and after they began to subside, the report said Barr revived them.
This is the latest twist in a controversy that began weeks ago when it emerged that the Trump-era Justice Department seized communications records from reporters who were working on stories about Trump and Russia and issued gag orders. The Washington Post said three of its reporters' records were obtained, while the New York Times said four reporters' records were obtained. CNN also said email and phone records of its Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, were obtained.
"The records at issue were sought in 2020 under Department regulations that apply to records of members of the news media, and the journalists were neither subjects nor targets of the investigation," Anthony Coley, the Justice Department's director of public affairs and a senior adviser to Attorney General Merrick Garland, told the Washington Examiner.
The Washington Examiner reached out to Horowitz's office for comment on lawmakers' calls for an investigation but did not immediately receive a response.
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Original Author: Jeremy Beaman