Last month, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and a member of the committee, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), were informed that the Trump Justice Department covertly got Apple records about them in 2017-18, in what Schiff called “a body blow to our democracy.”
The New York Times reported that the Justice Department subpoenaed and acquired Apple metadata (records but not real content) for at least a dozen House Intelligence Committee members, aides, and family members as part of a leak probe. Schiff and Swalwell spoke on CNN about it sharing that one of them was a minor.
There was no evidence of leaks in the records. According to The New York Times, “As the years wore on, some [DOJ] officials argued in meetings that charges were becoming less realistic,” The Times reported. “They lacked strong evidence, and a jury might not care about the information reported years earlier.”
Schiff, who was the committee’s top Democrat under a Republican chairman at the time, told Chris Cuomo that the requests were “extraordinarily broad — people having nothing to do with… the intelligence matters that are, at the very least, being reported on,” and referred to it as a “fishing expedition.”
Rep. Adam Schiff says he was “shocked on the one hand, not surprised on the other,” when he first heard of reports that his communications were the target of the Trump DOJ.
“What they were looking for I still don’t know… it’s just another terrible abuse of the rule of law.” pic.twitter.com/Gimhm7DXYw
— Cuomo Prime Time (@CuomoPrimeTime) June 11, 2021
“What they were looking for, I still don’t know. Apparently, they didn’t find anything,” Schiff added.
They “were targeted punitively,” Swalwell told Don Lemon, “not for any reason in law, but because Donald Trump identified Chairman Schiff and members of the committee as an enemy.”
“It looks like they were renewed a number of times and, thankfully, … it looks like [the Biden administration] did not renew it,” Swalwell said the subpoenas were covered by gag orders.
“The matter’s closed,” Swalwell said. “And of course, it’s closed, because we did nothing but our jobs, and we followed the rules we were supposed to follow in our investigation that showed that Donald Trump and his team sought to have assistance from Russia.”
Trump used the Justice Department as a “this bludgeon to go after the president’s enemies, and a shield to protect those who lied for him.”
“We brought about these new norms after Watergate to prevent exactly this kind of abuse. But they didn’t survive his presidency.”
After the New York Times revealed that the Justice Department subpoenaed Apple for data from the congressman’s account, Schiff (D-Calif.) called for an inspector general probe into Trump’s “weaponization of law enforcement.”
“It violates, I think, the separation of powers, but it also makes the Department of Justice a fully owned subsidiary of the president’s personal legal interests,” Schiff said in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Thursday night.
The Trump administration’s attempt to gain secret access to the data of individual members of Congress and others connected to the panel came as the president was fuming publicly and privately over investigations into his campaign’s ties to Russia, both in Congress and by then-special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump has referred to the investigations as a “witch hunt,” has repeatedly chastised Schiff and other Democrats on Twitter, and has dismissed as “fake news” leaks that he believes are personally damaging to his objectives. He expected allegiance from a Justice Department he regarded as his own legal firm as the probes swirled around him.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement that “these actions appear to be yet another egregious assault on our democracy” waged by the former president.
“The news about the politicization of the Trump Administration Justice Department is harrowing,” she added.