Prosecutors in the US Justice Department under former president Donald Trump seized data from Apple from two Democratic lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee, as well as that of their staff and family members, The New York Times reported Thursday.
Subpoenas for the communications metadata targeted congressman Adam Schiff of California, a Trump foe who was then the panel’s top Democrat and now its chairman, the paper said.
The record seizures came in 2017 and early 2018 as the department investigated leaks of classified information relating to contacts between the Trump administration and the Russian government, the paper reported.
Congressman Eric Swalwell told CNN on Thursday he was the second Democratic lawmaker on the committee who was targeted.
“I was notified… by Apple that they did seize my records. It’s wrong,” he said.
One of the family members targeted was a minor, the paper reported.
According to the Times, prosecutors working under then attorney general Jeff Sessions made unusual efforts to find the source of the leaks of classified information.
The Justice Department officials targeted electronic data not only of the lawmakers, but that of their staff and families, possibly targeting a minor because investigators thought the lawmakers were using their associates’ or children’s devices to hide contacts with journalists.
The Justice Department and Apple are yet to comment on the report.
Ultimately, none of the data or other evidence tied the lawmakers or the House Intelligence Committee to the leaks, the Times said.
But the leak investigations were revived by attorney general Bill Barr a year later, the paper reported.
The seizure of such records has rarely been seen outside of corruption investigations.
– ‘Harrowing’ –
Schiff, while not confirming he was a target of the investigation, called for a probe by the Justice Department’s inspector general into “this and other cases that suggest the weaponization of law enforcement by a corrupt president.”
Trump “tried to use the Department as a cudgel against his political opponents and members of the media. It is increasingly apparent that those demands did not fall on deaf ears,” Schiff said in a statement.
Top Democrat Nancy Pelosi also called for an investigation, describing the New York Times report as “harrowing.”
“These actions appear to be yet another egregious assault on our democracy waged by the former president,” she said in a statement.
The Justice Department placed a gag order on Apple that expired this year, meaning lawmakers were unaware of the probes until the tech giant notified them last month, according to the paper.
Schiff, a leader on the Democratic impeachment team, has long railed against Trump, calling him “dangerous.”
He made the case in early 2020 for Trump to be removed from office for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Trump was subsequently impeached twice and defeated after a single term, but returned to the spotlight last week for his first speech in months, framing next year’s midterm elections as a battle for the “survival of America.”
The House of Representatives impeached Trump in 2019 for pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political opponents, dangling military aid to Ukraine and a White House visit in return.
He was then acquitted in the Senate earlier this year on an impeachment charge of inciting the January 6 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.
A two-thirds majority was needed in the 100-member Senate to convict Trump but only 57 senators voted “guilty.”
Seven Republicans joined Democrats in the Senate in voting to convict the former president.