GOP's Stefanik defends Trump DOJ secret subpoenas

House GOP Conference Chair Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikWyoming county GOP rejects effort to rescind Cheney's party status Stefanik in ad says Democrats want 'permanent election insurrection' GOP leader taking proxy voting fight to Supreme Court MORE (N.Y.) on Tuesday defended the Justice Department’s efforts to secretly seize phone, email and other records from a pair of House Democratic lawmakers, their aides and reporters as officials aggressively pursued leak investigations during the Trump era.

Stefanik serves on the House Intelligence Committee, alongside two California Democrats and vocal critics of former President TrumpDonald TrumpJulian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy Overnight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment Five takeaways from Arizona's audit results MORE, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffJan. 6 panel subpoenas four ex-Trump aides Bannon, Meadows Schiff: Criminal contempt charges possible for noncooperation in Jan. 6 probe The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks MORE and Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellGreene heckles Democrats and they fire back on Capitol steps Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails MORE, who had their records subpoenaed without their knowledge.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) also subpoenaed the records of their staff and family members, including one minor, as well as Trump's own White House counsel.

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Stefanik acknowledged that the DOJ’s inspector general is investigating whether Trump administration officials abused their power by seeking the records of those in the legislative branch. The House and Senate Judiciary committees also have launched investigations into the matter. 

But Stefanik, a Trump loyalist who recently replaced Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyHouse passes sweeping defense policy bill Trump rips Bush for backing Cheney Bush to hold fundraiser for Cheney MORE (R-Wyo.) in the House GOP leadership, alleged that Schiff and others on the Intelligence Committee had inappropriately leaked information to the press in the past.   

“Having served on the House Intelligence Committee, we've seen illegal leaks from our colleagues on the House Intelligence Committee, and there have been numerous referrals to the Department of Justice,” Stefanik said at a news conference Tuesday. “So I think it's important that the Department of Justice determine if there were any illegal leaks, leaks by members of Congress, or their staff members."

“Let's also be perfectly clear here that Adam Schiff, as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, released information regarding the ranking member, Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesLIVE COVERAGE: Ways and Means begins Day 2 on .5T package Biden faces unfinished mission of evacuating Americans Nunes sues MSNBC, alleging Rachel Maddow defamed him MORE, his phone calls, as well as [to] reporters,” she added. “That is unethical. Frankly, I believe that's illegal.”

That was a reference to Schiff’s sweeping December 2019 report on Trump’s first impeachment. The report detailed that Nunes, a California Republican, had multiple communications with key figures in the impeachment inquiry, including Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiThree Democrats call for investigation into Sidney Powell to move 'swiftly' Fox News bans Rudy Giuliani from appearing: report Alabama official dismisses Lindell claim that 100K votes were flipped from Trump to Biden: 'It's not possible' MORE, Trump’s personal lawyer, as well as with Giuliani’s Soviet-born associate Lev Parnas, who was indicted on campaign finance charges.

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At the time, Nunes and other Republicans were furious with Schiff for including a lawmaker’s metadata in a public report, calling it a “smear.” Schiff, at the time, made clear the Intelligence Committee had not subpoenaed Nunes’s records, suggesting his phone number appeared in the records of others targeted in the impeachment probe.  

"Chairman Schiff never issued subpoenas for phone records for Members, despite many false assertions otherwise. As a member of our committee, Rep. Stefanik should know better," Schiff spokeswoman Lauren French said in an email. "We should all focus on getting answers and making sure the DOJ is never weaponized for political purposes ever again, not spreading falsehoods like these to defend President Trump and the destructive actions of his administration.”

But it's unlikely Schiff will be able to persuade Stefanik, who tangled with the Intelligence chairman throughout Trump's first impeachment proceedings.

“I certainly think the inspector general is going to look into this whether there was any overreach by the Department of Justice,” Stefanik said of the new DOJ revelations.

“But make no mistake, there have been illegal leaks from members of Congress. That's a national security risk. That is a federal crime. It's very serious and we want to make sure that the Department of Justice is able to pursue any type of criminal illegal leaks.”

Updated at 2:08 p.m.