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Senate demands former AGs testify about Trump data seizure

Demand that AGs testify

Senate Democratic leaders are demanding that Trump-era Attorneys General Bill Barr and Jeff Sessions testify about the secret seizure of data from House Democrats in 2018, calling it “shocking” and a “gross abuse of power.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Illinois. Sen. Dick Durbin said in a statement Friday that Barr and Sessions “must testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee" and are subject to a subpoena if they refuse. The demands came after Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell were notified that the Justice Department under former President Donald Trump had seized their metadata from Apple three years ago.

The Justice Department under former President Donald Trump secretly seized data from the accounts of at least two Democratic lawmakers in 2018 as part of an aggressive crackdown on leaks related to the Russia investigation and other national security matters, according to three people familiar with the seizures.

Prosecutors from Trump’s Justice Department subpoenaed Apple for the data from at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, said a committee official and two other people with inside knowledge. The records of at least 12 people connected to the intelligence panel were eventually shared by the company. Among them: Rep. Adam Schiff, then the top Democrat on the committee and now its chairman, and Rep. Eric Swalwell.

The committee official and the two others with knowledge of the data seizures were granted anonymity to discuss them.

While the Justice Department routinely conducts investigations of leaked information, including classified intelligence, opening such an investigation into members of Congress is extraordinarily rare. The disclosures reveal one branch of the government using its powers of investigation and prosecution to spy on another.

Schiff said the seizures suggest "the weaponization of law enforcement by a corrupt president.”

Apple informed the committee last month that the records had been shared and that the investigation had been closed, but did not give extensive detail. Also seized were the records of aides, former aides and family members, one of them a minor, according to the committee official.

The Justice Department obtained metadata — probably records of calls, texts and locations — but not other content from the devices, like photos, messages or emails, according to one of the people. Another said that Apple complied with the subpoena, providing the information to the Justice Department, and did not immediately notify the members of Congress or the committee about the disclosure.

The Trump administration’s attempt to secretly gain access to the data came as the president was fuming publicly and privately over investigations — in Congress and by then-special counsel Robert Mueller — into his campaign’s ties to Russia.

Trump called the probes a “witch hunt," regularly criticized Democrats and Mueller on Twitter and repeatedly dismissed as “fake news” leaks he found harmful to his agenda. As the investigations swirled around him, he demanded loyalty from a Justice Department he often regarded as his personal law firm.



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