Trump's DOJ Investigated Democrats On House Intelligence Committee, Source Says

Jun 11, 2021
Originally published on June 11, 2021 7:44 am
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SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

More news about the Justice Department under former President Trump and its search for leaks. Back in 2018, the department secretly subpoenaed Apple for data from two Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee. The subpoena also targeted their staff and even family. I will note that Apple is among NPR's financial supporters. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas joins us now. Morning, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.

MCCAMMON: What can you tell us about the subpoena?

LUCAS: Well, as you said, this took place back in 2018 as part of a leak investigation that the Justice Department had going. A committee source tells me that the department subpoenaed Apple for the communication metadata of two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee. One of them is the panel's top Democrat, Adam Schiff. The other was Congressman Eric Swalwell. But the department also subpoenaed current and former committee staff, as well as family, including one minor. The New York Times was the first to report all of this. Now, this move by the Justice Department was very aggressive. It's also highly unusual for the Justice Department to do something like this, to subpoena data of members of Congress. If it happens, it's usually only in a corruption investigation. But here, it was a hunt for leaks.

MCCAMMON: Why are we finding out about this just now, Ryan? And did anything come out of the investigation?

LUCAS: Well, we're finding out about it now because the Justice Department had secured a gag order on Apple when this happened. So the company couldn't tell the lawmakers or anyone else affected by the subpoena about the subpoena. That gag order lifted last month. Once that happened, Apple told the lawmakers about the subpoena. The committee then contacted the Justice Department - now, of course, under the Biden administration. My source tells me that the department told the committee that the investigation had been closed. And it's important to say here that nobody connected to the committee has been charged with anything.

MCCAMMON: A moment ago, you mentioned Congressman Schiff and Swalwell. What are they saying about this?

LUCAS: Well, Schiff put out a statement last night, in which he said that Trump tried time and time again to use the Justice Department as a weapon against his political opponents and against the media. Schiff said that Trump's demands clearly did not fall on deaf ears. He called this an attack on the rule of law. And he called on the Justice Department's internal watchdog to investigate. Swalwell echoed that condemnation of this investigation. And he threw his support behind Schiff's call for the Justice Department's inspector general to look into this. The Biden Justice Department, meanwhile, is declining to comment.

MCCAMMON: We are learning about this subpoena now for House intelligence records. It happened back in 2018. Remind us, what was going on at that time?

LUCAS: It sometimes seems like it was ages ago, right? But the early years of the Trump administration were pretty chaotic. There were a lot of leaks about the president and his administration. Some of those leaks were fairly embarrassing for President Trump. And remember, the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee were both investigating at the time possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, of course, was still going on as well. And the president was not shy about haranguing the Justice Department to track down whoever was responsible for these leaks. And that effort continued right up to the end of the Trump administration. And we know that because of other revelations that have recently emerged - that the Trump Justice Department subpoenaed the records of reporters from The Washington Post, CNN and The New York Times, as well as part of leak investigations.

MCCAMMON: That's NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas. Thanks, Ryan.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.