National Security

Trump’s DOJ Reportedly Seized Democrat Phone Records During Leak Investigation

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Michael Ginsberg General Assignment Reporter
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The Department of Justice (DOJ) subpoenaed phone info from two House Democrats in an effort to plug leaks surrounding the Russia probe, The New York Times reported Thursday.

California Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both of whom sit on the House Intelligence Committee, were the targets of the subpoenas, which were approved by a grand jury in 2017 and 2018, according to The New York Times. Staffers and family members of the two congressmen were also subpoenaed, multiple sources alleged. The DOJ reportedly used a gag order to prevent Apple from alerting the congressmen that their phone records had been seized.

The subpoenas and gag orders reportedly began under Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from the DOJ’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged interactions with Russian operatives. Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump during the 2016 primaries and served as his national security adviser during the campaign. It is unclear who requested the subpoenas since Sessions was not involved in the Russia investigation. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein led the probe.

The subpoenas were issued in the context of a larger probe into leaks surrounding the Russia investigation. AG William Barr reportedly continued the leak investigations when he was confirmed to the position in 2019. A key target of the investigation was the individual who leaked information about a meeting between incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition, The New York Times reported. That individual has not been identified. (RELATED: Jeff Sessions: Leak Of Michael Flynn Phone Call Was An ‘Absolute Crime’)

Kislyak also met twice with Sessions during the Trump campaign, although it is unclear whether those meetings were in the context of Sessions’ role as Trump advisor or his elected position as Alabama senator. Sessions also met with other regional ambassadors during the same time period, including Ukraine’s.

This is not the first time that the DOJ used gag orders in the context of a leak investigation. The New York Times revealed on June 4 that both the Trump and Biden administrations employed gag orders to prevent senior leadership at the newspaper from discussing a leak investigation centering on former FBI Director James Comey. The DOJ subpoenaed emails from four Times reporters during that investigation.

Schiff is demanding an investigation. “The Inspector General should investigate this and other cases that suggest the weaponization of law enforcement by a corrupt president,” he told NBC News.

He later tweeted, “Trump repeatedly demanded the DOJ go after his political enemies. It’s clear his demands didn’t fall on deaf ears. This baseless investigation, while now closed, is yet another example of Trump’s corrupt weaponization of justice. And how much he imperiled our democracy.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is supporting Schiff’s call for an investigation.

“The news about the politicization of the Trump Administration Justice Department is harrowing. These actions appear to be yet another egregious assault on our democracy waged by the former president. I support Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s call for an investigation into this situation and other acts of the weaponization of law enforcement by the former president. Transparency is essential,” she said in a statement.

Swalwell said the disclosures reveal that “it’s a fragile time for our democracy.”

Schiff has been repeatedly accused of leaking information regarding the Russia probe. Donald Trump Jr. claimed in 2019 that there was a “99.9 percent chance” that Schiff leaked his 2017 testimony to the House Intelligence Committee. Schiff later responded that he was not leaking, but “expos[ing Trump Jr.’s] non-cooperation and his stonewalling of our committee.”

Former congressman Trey Gowdy, then-President Trump, and then-Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also accused Schiff of leaking closed committee testimony and classified information.