The Times reported that the Justice Department subpoenaed metadata in February 2018 from the tech giant Apple related to the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, as well as aides and family members, including a minor child.
The records pulled included those of Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who was the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee at the time, the Times reported, citing committee officials and two other people briefed on the inquiry.
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.
The news comes on the heels of recent disclosures that the Justice Department sought the records of journalists at The Times, The Washington Post, and CNN in an attempt to identify their sources, a move that was widely panned by press freedom advocates, but that has been used in past administrations as well.
The records do not contain any other content from the devices, like photos, messages or emails, one of the other people said.
The reason: Trump wanted to figured out who was leaking classified information to reporters about the investigation into contacts between associates of Trump and Russian Federation, per the Washington Post.
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The records belonged to members of the committee, including Rep. Adam Schiff of California, as well as their staffers and families, including one minor, The Times reported.
"President Trump repeatedly and flagrantly demanded that the Department of Justice carry out his political will, and tried to use the Department as a cudgel against his political opponents and members of the media". Schiff and other Democrats on the committee became some of the most vocal critics of Trump in Congress. "This appalling politicization of the Department of Justice by Donald Trump and his sycophants must be investigated immediately by both the DOJ Inspector General and Congress". "These actions appear to be yet another egregious assault on our democracy waged by the former president".
In their joint statement Friday, Schumer and Durbin said that in addition to Barr, Sessions and other officials testifying, the Justice Department "must provide information and answers to the Judiciary Committee, which will vigorously investigate this abuse of power".
The Justice Department declined comment. Swalwell, confirming that he was told his records were seized, told CNN on Thursday night that he was aware a minor was involved and believed that person was "targeted punitively and not for any reason in law".
The Times writes that the DOJ routinely investigates leaks, but it was "extraordinary" for the DOJ to subpoena "communications metadata from members of Congress - a almost unheard-of move outside of corruptions investigations". Biden's Justice Department has vowed to end the practice. After some of the information was declassified and made public during the later years of the Trump administration, some of the prosecutors were concerned that even if they could bring a leak case, trying it would be hard and a conviction would be unlikely, one of the people said.