House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday that Congress will investigate what she called the Trump Justice Department‘s “rogue” efforts to seize the private information of Democrats as part of its probe into media leaks, saying it went “beyond Richard Nixon.”
“In terms of the data mining, what the Republicans did, the administration did, the Justice Department, the leadership of the former president, goes even beyond Richard Nixon,” Mrs. Pelosi said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Richard Nixon had an enemies list. This is about undermining the rule of law.”
She referred to Friday’s flurry of reports about a behind-the-scenes 2017-18 Justice Department investigation into leaks that involved issuing grand jury subpoenas to at least two Democrats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Reps. Adam B. Schiff and Eric Swalwell of California.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz announced Friday that his office would conduct an investigation into “the issuance of subpoenas, DOJ’s use of subpoenas and other legal authorities to obtain communication records of Members of Congress and affiliated persons, and the news media.”
He said the probe would include the department’s “compliance with applicable DOJ policies and procedures, and whether any such uses, or the investigations, were based upon improper considerations.”
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York and Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, demanded that Mr. Trump’s two attorneys general — Jeff Sessions and William Barr — appear before Congress and explain themselves under oath.
“Former Attorneys General Barr and Sessions and other officials who were involved must testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath,” the statement said. “If they refuse, they are subject to being subpoenaed and compelled to testify under oath. In addition, the Justice Department must provide information and answers to the Judiciary Committee, which will vigorously investigate this abuse of power.”
Mrs. Pelosi said the House would also be involved in investigating the matter.
“The inspector general’s report is very important, but it is not a substitute for what must do in the Congress,” she said. “The Senate has called for some review, we will certainly have that in the House of Representatives.”
Apple confirmed Friday that it received grand jury subpoenas in February 2018 requesting metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses in February 2018 as part of its leak investigation into lawmakers, staffers and their families.
Apple said the subpoena was issued by a federal grand jury and included a gag order from a federal judge barring the tech giant from telling targets of the subpoena about the data request.
Apple added that the request “provided no information about the nature of the investigation and it would have been virtually impossible for Apple to understand the intent of the desired information without digging through the users’ accounts.”
“Consistent with the request, Apple limited the information it provided to account subscriber information and did not provide any content such as emails or pictures,” the statement said.
The nondisclosure was extended three times, each lasting a year, according to CNN. Apple notified the subpoena targets last month when the order was not extended a fourth time.
Mr. Swalwell said that he had been notified by Apple that his data had been seized as part of the probe, and that records of family members and a minor had been obtained.
“I do know that to be true,” Mr. Swalwell told CNN. “I believe they were targeted punitively not for any reason in law but because Donald Trump identified Chairman Schiff and members of the committee as an enemy of his.”
At the time of the subpoenas, Mr. Sessions was trying to uncover the source of leaks about contacts between President Trump’s campaign associates and Russia.
Mr. Barr revived the investigation when he replaced Mr. Sessions in 2019.
He ordered a federal prosecutor from New Jersey to work on the cases, but told The Wall Street Journal on Friday that he didn’t recall the subpoenas.
Mrs. Pelosi expressed skepticism about Mr. Barr and Mr. Sessions saying they were unaware of members of Congress having their records sought, and that she hoped they would agree to testify without being served with subpoenas.
“For the attorneys general, Barr and Sessions, at least two, to say they didn’t know anything about it is beyond belief. So we will have to have them come under oath to testify about that,” Ms. Pelosi said.
She also accused the Justice Department of being “rogue under President Trump,” adding that “this is just another manifestation of their rogue activity.”
In a 2018 interview with The Washington Times, then-Attorney General Sessions said the epidemic of government workers leaking information to the media was fueled by animosity toward President Trump.
“My view when I came here was that there was way too much leaking, but it really seemed to accelerate when President Trump became president,” he said at the time.
Leaks dogged Mr. Trump even before he took office, with the salacious and uncorroborated Steele dossier and secret information about his national security adviser leaking before Inauguration Day.
Democrats say the investigation was another overreach by the Trump administration and an attempt to weaponize the Justice Department against his political enemies.
“The politicization of the Department and the attacks on the rule of law are among the most dangerous assaults on our democracy carried out by the former President,” Mr. Schiff said in a statement.