Democrats demand Barr, Sessions testify on Apple data subpoenas

The top two Senate Democrats on Friday called for multiple investigations into the Department of Justice's (DOJ) decisions in 2017 and 2018 to issue subpoenas seeking metadata records of House Intelligence Committee members as the Trump administration pursued leak investigations.

Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan GOP infighting takes stupid to a whole new level Progressive groups urge Schumer to prevent further cuts to T plan MORE (N.Y.) and Judiciary Committee Chair Dick DurbinDick DurbinFour questions that deserve answers at the Guantanamo oversight hearing Senate dodges initial December crisis with last-minute deal Conservatives target Biden pick for New York district court MORE (Ill.) also called for two of former President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden heading to Kansas City to promote infrastructure package Trump calls Milley a 'f---ing idiot' over Afghanistan withdrawal First rally for far-right French candidate Zemmour prompts protests, violence MORE’s attorneys general, William BarrBill BarrHolding defiant Trump witnesses to account, Jan. 6 committee carries out Congress's constitutional role Jan. 6 panel recommends contempt charges for Trump DOJ official Appeals court questions Biden DOJ stance on Trump obstruction memo MORE and Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPress: For Trump endorsement: The more sordid, the better Those predicting Facebook's demise are blowing smoke If bitcoin is 'digital gold,' it should be taxed like gold MORE, to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"The revelation that the Trump Justice Department secretly subpoenaed metadata of House Intelligence Committee Members and staff and their families, including a minor, is shocking. This is a gross abuse of power and an assault on the separation of powers,” Schumer and Durbin said in a joint statement Friday. “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."

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“Former Attorneys General Barr and Sessions and other officials who were involved must testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath. If they refuse, they are subject to being subpoenaed and compelled to testify under oath,” the Democratic leaders continued.

To carry out that threat, Democrats would need the support of at least one Republican given the committee's even split between the parties.

The DOJ's internal watchdog confirmed on Friday that it would investigate the subpoenas, as well as recently revealed ones initiated against reporters at multiple news outlets.

“The review will examine the Department’s compliance with applicable DOJ policies and procedures, and whether any such uses, or the investigations, were based upon improper considerations,” Michael Horowitz, DOJ’s inspector ceneral, said in a statement.

Early in Trump’s presidency, his Justice Department subpoenaed Apple for metadata for House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffJan. 6 panel faces new test as first witness pleads the Fifth Jan. 6 panel releases contempt report on Trump DOJ official ahead of censure vote The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to update Americans on omicron; Congress back MORE (D-Calif.) and Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellGOP infighting takes stupid to a whole new level The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to update Americans on omicron; Congress back GOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips MORE (D-Calif.), two staunch critics of Trump, and their family members and fought to place a gag order on the company. The revelation was first reported by The New York Times.

So far, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiUS expected to announce diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics soon: report Pressure grows to remove Boebert from committees Lawmakers remember Bob Dole: 'Bona fide American hero' MORE (D-Calif.) and other House Democratic leaders have not taken the same steps in calling for House committees to investigate Trump’s Justice Department officials. But House sources said there is significant interest in House panels, including the Judiciary Committee led by Chairman Jerry NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse passes bill to expedite financial disclosures from judges Unrequited rage: The demand for mob justice in the Rittenhouse trial Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Democrats prepare to grill oil execs MORE (D-N.Y.), to launch investigations.

It’s unclear whether the Intelligence Committee could start a probe, given that Schiff, Swalwell and committee aides their families were targets of the DOJ investigation into who was leaking information to news outlets about ties between Trump associates and Russia. 

On Capitol Hill and on cable TV, Schiff and Swalwell became some of Trump’s most vocal and visible political foes, particularly on the Russia story; Pelosi would later tap Schiff as lead prosecutor during Trump’s first Senate impeachment trial, while Swalwell served as a prosecutor during Trump’s second impeachment trial.

In statements Thursday night, both Schiff and Pelosi had called for Horowitz to investigate the actions of the former Trump officials.       

“Though we were informed by the Department in May that this investigation is closed, I believe more answers are needed, which is why I believe the Inspector General should investigate this and other cases that suggest the weaponization of law enforcement by a corrupt president,” Schiff said.

“Trump repeatedly demanded the DOJ go after his political enemies. It's clear his demands didn't fall on deaf ears,” he added on Twitter on Thursday night. 

Pelosi called the revelations that Trump’s Justice Department was targeting House Democrats "harrowing."

“These actions appear to be yet another egregious assault on our democracy waged by the former president,” Pelosi said Thursday, a nod to the DOJ issuing subpoenas to also target journalists and news outlets. 

“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.

The news of the subpoenas targeting lawmakers follows DOJ efforts in recent weeks to notify journalists at CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times that their records were also subpoenaed under investigations initiated under the Trump administration. 

The seizures were a deviation from a Justice Department policy that typically requires the agency to notify reporters as soon as their records are sought. 

But the Trump administration took advantage of a provision that allows the attorney general to delay notification if there is a “threat to the integrity of the investigation” or a risk of grave harm to national security or death.

In such cases, the DOJ is required to disclose that the records were obtained within 45 days, though the attorney general can extend that period for another 45 days.

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While that time frame largely left the task to fall on the Biden administration, the DOJ continued to seek gag orders seeking to block communications companies from notifying the news outlets their records were being sought.

Even once the department relented and allowed the news to be shared with lawyers at CNN and the Times, it continued to fight for gag orders limiting counsel from informing the reporters their records had been seized.

Schiff and Swalwell’s notification that their records had been subpoenaed followed a similar pattern. They were not notified until May, when a gag order the DOJ sought for Apple had expired.

Though President BidenJoe BidenChina eyes military base on Africa's Atlantic coast: report Biden orders flags be flown at half-staff through Dec. 9 to honor Dole Biden heading to Kansas City to promote infrastructure package MORE had been sworn in, DOJ officials this year did not inform lawmakers that they were being investigated in the leak probe — a revelation that has infuriated some Democrats on Capitol Hill. 

“There is a lot of frustration at DOJ’s lack of forthcomingness here,” said one congressional Democratic source. “We’ve asked a series of questions of DOJ. They have not been forthcoming, and we hope that will change.”

Updated at 2:24 p.m.