Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are reportedly asking the Department of Justice to turn over records of secret Trump administration subpoenas that were looking for communications data from lawmakers and reporters.
The committee on Monday announced its inquiry into Trump DOJ efforts to scoop up data about leaks of classified information.
The Thursday request from the House Judiciary panel to Attorney General Merrick Garland for documents is the first issued as part of that investigation, CBS News reported. The panel wants a briefing from the Justice Department by June 25.
''The Committee is now engaged in an investigation of the Trump Administration’s surveillance of Members of Congress, the news media, and others,'' panel chair Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said in a statement Thursday, Reuters reported.
''We must determine if the Department sought these sensitive records for improper political purposes,'' the panel Democrats wrote, CBS News reported. "We must ask why the department repeatedly pursued gag orders — preventing companies from notifying their users of the sweeping information requests by federal law enforcement — despite realizing early in the effort that no criminal charges would result from these investigations."
The lawmakers said they "must identify the full set of individuals who may have also been the targets of politically-motivated investigations" since "the news media, the members of Congress identified in recent reports, and the former White House counsel were so frequently targets of President Trump's public ire."
"As you no doubt agree, if the Department of Justice used criminal investigations as pretext to target President Trump's perceived political enemies, this conduct constitutes a gross abuse of power," the letter states, CBS News reported.
The investigation by the Judiciary Committee comes as the DOJ’s inspector general heads a separate review of the efforts by the Trump administration to seek the phone and email records of reporters, lawmakers, their families and congressional staff. And Garland on Monday vowed to move ''swiftly'' in response to the internal watchdog’s inquiry.
The House move comes in the wake of explosive revelations that the Justice Department secretly obtained or tried to access phone and email data from journalists at three outlets, The Washington Post, CNN and The New York Times, in the early years of the Trump administration. The department also imposed gag orders that prevented the organizations from disclosing knowledge of the leak investigation and legal battles against the efforts to seize the records.
It was then revealed the Trump administration subpoenaed Apple in 2017 and 2018 for data from two Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee, Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both of California, while investigating leaks. In addition to secretly seeking the data from the Democrats, the Justice Department also got records from committee aides and family members, including a minor, CBS News reported.
The department also subpoenaed Apple in 2018 for data from Donald McGahn, former White House counsel, and his wife, Shannon, in 2018.
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