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Trump justice dept. seized lawmakers’ information whereas trying to find leakers amid Russia probe – Nationwide

The U.S. Justice Division underneath former President Donald Trump seized information from the accounts of at the very least two members of the Home Intelligence Committee in 2018 as a part of an aggressive crackdown on leaks associated to the Russia investigation and different nationwide safety issues, based on a committee official and two folks acquainted with the investigation.

Prosecutors from Trump’s Justice Division subpoenaed Apple for the info, based on the folks, who have been granted anonymity to debate the key seizures first reported by The New York Instances.

The data of at the very least twelve folks linked to the intelligence panel have been ultimately shared, together with Chairman Adam Schiff, who was then the highest Democrat on the committee. California Rep. Eric Swalwell was the second member, based on spokeswoman Natalie Edelstein. The data of aides, former aides and relations have been additionally siezed, together with one who was a minor, based on the committee official.

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Apple knowledgeable the committee final month that their data had been shared, however didn’t give intensive element. The committee is conscious, although, that metadata from the accounts was turned over, the official mentioned. The data don’t include some other content material from the gadgets, like images, messages or emails, one of many different folks mentioned. The third particular person mentioned that Apple complied with the subpoena, offering the data to the Justice Division, and didn’t instantly notify the members of Congress or the committee concerning the disclosure.

Whereas the Justice Division routinely conducts investigations of leaked info, together with categorized intelligence, opening such an investigation into members of Congress is awfully uncommon.

The Trump administration’s try and secretly acquire entry to information of particular person members of Congress and others linked to the panel got here because the president was fuming publicly and privately over investigations — in Congress and by then-special counsel Robert Mueller — into his marketing campaign’s ties to Russia. Trump referred to as the probes a “witch hunt,” commonly criticized Schiff and different Democrats on Twitter and repeatedly dismissed as “faux information” leaks he discovered personally dangerous to his agenda. Because the investigations swirled round him, he demanded loyalty from a Justice Division he usually considered his private regulation agency.

Trump calls experiences on administration’s ties to Russia ‘faux information’

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Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., mentioned in a press release that “these actions seem like one more egregious assault on our democracy” waged by the previous president.

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“The information concerning the politicization of the Trump Administration Justice Division is harrowing,” she mentioned.

Schiff, now the panel’s chair, confirmed in a press release Thursday night that the Justice Division had knowledgeable the committee in Might that the investigation was closed. Nonetheless, he mentioned, “I consider extra solutions are wanted, which is why I consider the Inspector Common ought to examine this and different circumstances that recommend the weaponization of regulation enforcement by a corrupt president.”

The Justice Division informed the intelligence panel then that the matter had not transferred to some other entity or investigative physique, the committee official mentioned, and the division confirmed that to the committee once more on Thursday.

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The panel has continued to hunt extra info, however the Justice Division has not been forthcoming in a well timed method, together with on questions reminiscent of whether or not the investigation was correctly predicated and whether or not it solely focused Democrats, the committee official mentioned.

It’s unclear why Trump’s Justice Division would have focused a minor as a part of the probe. Swalwell, confirming that he was informed his data have been siezed, informed CNN Thursday night that he was conscious a minor was concerned and “I consider they have been focused punitively and never for any motive in regulation.”

One other Democrat on the intelligence panel, Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley, mentioned he didn’t discover it even “remotely shocking” that Trump went after committee members’ data through the Russia probe.

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“From my first days as a part of the Russia investigation, I anticipated that ultimately, somebody would try this — I simply wasn’t positive if it will be a hostile authorities or my very own,” Quigley mentioned.

There’s no indication that the Justice Division used the data to prosecute anybody. After among the info was declassified and made public through the later years of the Trump administration, there was concern amongst among the prosecutors that even when they may convey a leak case, attempting it will be tough and a conviction can be unlikely, one of many folks mentioned. Federal brokers questioned at the very least one former committee workers member in 2020, the particular person mentioned, and in the end, prosecutors weren’t in a position to substantiate a case.

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The information follows revelations that the Justice Division had secretly seized cellphone data belonging to reporters at The New York Instances, The Washington Publish and CNN as a part of legal leak investigations. Following an outcry from press freedom organizations, the Justice Division introduced final week that it will stop the apply of going after journalists’ sourcing info.

Related Press author Eric Tucker contributed to this report.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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