The Justice Department under former President Donald Trump secretly subpoenaed Apple for the phone data of Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee, their aides, and their families, including the committee’s now-chairman Adam Schiff, according to a bombshell New York Times report Friday.
DOJ prosecutors seized the iPhone metadata of at least a dozen people tied to the committee in 2017 and 2018, including Schiff and Rep. Eric Swalwell, who confirmed to multiple outlets Thursday that he’d been informed of the seizure of his data.
The Attorney General at the time, Jeff Sessions, was hunting for the source of leaks of classified information to the media about contacts between the Russian government and associates of Trump, according to the Times. Though the investigation turned up no evidence that the Democrats were the source of the leaks, the Times reported, Sessions’ successor, William Barr, renewed the case.
Schiff told CNN that “a lot” of people’s records were swept up in the probe, saying some people whose data was subpoenaed thought the email from Apple informing them was spam. Apple was under a gag order that expired this year, the Times reported.
As part of the data collection, the metadata of a minor was seized, the Times reported.
“Trump repeatedly demanded the DOJ go after his political enemies. It's clear his demands didn't fall on deaf ears,” Schiff said in a tweet Thursday. “This baseless investigation, while now closed, is yet another example of Trump's corrupt weaponization of justice.”
It’s unclear whether any Republican members of the committee were investigated as well. A spokesperson for Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking member of the committee and its former chairman, did not immediately return a request for comment, and the Times reports that the Justice Department has refused to tell Democrats whether any Republicans on the committee were subpoenaed.
In recent weeks CNN, the Washington Post, and the New York Times have all said the Trump DOJ tried (in some cases successfully) to seize their reporters’ phone and email records. In the case of CNN, general counsel David Vigilante wrote in an explanation on the outlet’s website that he was under a gag order rendering him unable to communicate with the reporter whose records were in question for nearly a year.
“I was told in no uncertain terms (multiple times) that I was forbidden from communicating about any aspect of the order or these proceedings to the journalist whose interests I am duty-bound to protect, Barbara Starr,” Vigilante wrote. “And I was further informed that if I violated the order, I was subject to charges of contempt and even criminal prosecution for obstruction of justice.”