According to The New York Times, prosecutors in the US Justice Department under former President Donald Trump obtained data from Apple from two Democratic congressmen on the House Intelligence Committee, as well as their employees and family members.
Subpoenas for communications metadata were sent to California congressman Adam Schiff, a Trump adversary who was the panel’s senior Democrat at the time and is now its chairman, according to the article.
The record seizures came in 2017 and early 2018 as the department investigated leaks of classified information relating to contacts between the Trump administration and the Russian government, the paper reported.
Congressman Eric Swalwell told CNN on Thursday he was the second Democratic lawmaker on the committee who was targeted.
“I was notified… by Apple that they did seize my records. It’s wrong,” he said.
One of the family members targeted was a minor, the paper reported.
According to the Times, prosecutors working under then attorney general Jeff Sessions made unusual efforts to find the source of the leaks of classified information.
The Justice Department officials targeted electronic data not only of the lawmakers, but that of their staff and families, possibly targeting a minor because investigators thought the lawmakers were using their associates’ or children’s devices to hide contacts with journalists.
The Justice Department and Apple are yet to comment on the report.
Ultimately, none of the data or other evidence tied the lawmakers or the House Intelligence Committee to the leaks, the Times said.
But the leak investigations were revived by attorney general Bill Barr a year later, the paper reported.
The seizure of such records has rarely been seen outside of corruption investigations.
– ‘Harrowing’ –
Schiff, while not confirming he was a target of the investigation, called for a probe by the Justice Department’s inspector general into “this and other cases that suggest the weaponization of law enforcement by a corrupt president.”
Trump “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,” Schiff said in a statement.
Top Democrat Nancy Pelosi also called for an investigation, describing the New York Times report as “harrowing.”
“These actions appear to be yet another egregious assault on our democracy waged by the former president,” she said in a statement.
The Justice Department placed a gag order on Apple that expired this year, meaning lawmakers were unaware of the probes until the tech giant notified them last month, according to the paper.
Schiff, a leader on the Democratic impeachment team, has long railed against Trump, calling him “dangerous.”
He made the case in early 2020 for Trump to be removed from office for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Trump was impeached twice and lost after only one term, but he returned to the spotlight this week for his first address in months, portraying next year’s midterm elections as a war for “survival of America.”
In 2019, the House of Representatives impeached Trump for pressing Ukraine to probe his political opponents in exchange for military funding and a White House visit.
He was subsequently acquitted in the Senate earlier this year on an impeachment allegation of encouraging his followers to carry out the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.
A two-thirds majority was needed in the 100-member Senate to convict Trump but only 57 senators voted “guilty.”
Seven Republicans joined Democrats in the Senate in voting to convict the former president.