On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated that the Justice Department’s “rogue” acts under former President Donald Trump’s administration will be investigated, including its decision to take Democratic legislators’ communications records.
That investigation will run concurrently with a probe by the department’s own internal watchdog into the department’s moves to subpoena phone records of Representatives Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell as part of a probe into classified information leaks.
Former Attorneys General William Barr and Jeff Sessions were frequently accused of placing Trump’s personal and political interests ahead of the law at the Justice Department.
“The Justice Department has been rogue under President Trump, understand that, in so many respects. This is just another manifestation of their rogue activity,” Pelosi stated while appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
On Friday, a White House official called the Trump administration’s actions “appalling.”
President Joe Biden was seen holding a card with talking points on the matter during a press appearance at the Group of Seven leaders’ summit in Britain.
“Trump abused power/Trump DOJ out of control. Now we have to clean it up,” the card read, according to images captured by a U.S. network pool camera. “I’ve made it clear this DOJ will reflect my values and principles and priorities — not Donald Trump’s.”
During his press appearance, Biden was not asked about the investigations.
Pelosi stated that the investigation by the department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, would be significant, but that it would not replace a congressional investigation.
“We have to have them come under oath to testify,” Pelosi said of Barr and Sessions. She then added that it was “beyond belief” for them to say they knew nothing about it. On Friday, Barr had reportedly stated that he had no recollection of any congressman’s phone records being subpoenaed.
Pelosi dodged a question about whether they’d be subpoenaed, saying she hoped they’d show up on their own.
Horowitz’s office announced on Friday that it would conduct an investigation into the department’s use of subpoenas to obtain the communications data of lawmakers and journalists, as well as if “improper motives” influenced those decisions.
It was reported on Friday that the Trump administration’s Justice Department has sent a subpoena to Apple Inc seeking data on Schiff and Swalwell.
Senate Democrats have asked that the two former attorneys general testify, and have announced that the Senate Judiciary Committee is looking into the matter.
Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican in the Senate, stated on Sunday that she supported the Justice Department’s internal investigation.
“Has the Justice Department abused its power by going after members of Congress or the press for partisan political purposes?” she asked in an interview on CBS. She also noted that the question of whether members of Congress had leaked classified information — which the Trump administration was probing in its subpoenas — was a “serious” matter that also bore investigation.
Merrick Garland, Biden’s attorney general, has been chastised by Democrats in recent weeks for a pair of decisions perceived as sheltering Trump from scrutiny. Those decisions, according to legal experts, seem to show a department focused on the law and defending the president’s institution, rather than on political objectives.
Garland also stated on Friday that the department would beef up its election law enforcement and warned that a series of unofficial audits of the November presidential election being conducted in a few states could be a violation of federal civil rights laws.
After several major media outlets reported that the Trump administration tried to get reporters’ phone data in secret, the department under Garland announced it will no again seek source information from them.
According to a department official, Garland will meet with media executives on Monday to discuss the leak investigations.