WASHINGTON — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Thursday night that the Trump Justice Department had secretly subpoenaed personal records of people tied to his panel.
Lauren French, a spokeswoman for the panel, said material tied to Schiff himself “was included in the subpoenas” for metadata.
Schiff, a California Democrat who enraged President Donald Trump with congressional investigations of his administration, released a statement after The New York Times reported that the department had seized his records and those of several other people in an attempt to track down leaks that had led to articles about Trump’s circle and Russia.
The Times said that the inquiry began under Attorney General Jeff Sessions and was revived under Bill Barr. The paper said that Apple Inc. had been subpoenaed regarding the accounts of at least two Democrats on the panel and relatives.
Schiff, who did not mention in the statement whether his own records had been seized, said that while “we were informed by the department in May that this investigation is closed,” more answers were needed. He called on the department’s inspector general to “investigate this and other cases that suggest the weaponization of law enforcement by a corrupt president.”
French said he become aware of the subpoenas in May, adding that he is unaware of whether he was a target of the investigation, but that the committee itself was.
“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 said in the statement. “It is increasingly apparent that those demands did not fall on deaf ears.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a separate statement that she supports Schiff’s call for an investigation into the report that the Trump administration sought account metadata of House Intelligence Committee Members and staff and their families.
She called the news harrowing, and that “these actions appear to be yet another egregious assault on our democracy waged by the former president.”
A senior Intelligence Committee Democrat, Mike Quigley of Illinois, said in an interview that he had never been briefed about the Justice Department targeting of individuals associated with the committee — and was never aware of it.
But Quigley said he long “had expected that eventually, someone would attempt this – I just wasn’t sure if it would be a hostile government or my own.”
“The stakes were so high,” said Quigley, referring to the committee’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He accused Trump of repeatedly using the Justice Department for his own political ends.
The Times report sent shockwaves across Capitol Hill and beyond. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said “Donald Trump’s efforts to surveil Adam Schiff as part of a political vendetta is both a direct attack on the separation of powers and congressional independence.”
The Justice Department declined to comment on Thursday night.
Last weekend, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that “the issuing of subpoenas for the records of reporters in leak investigations is not consistent with the president’s policy direction to the department, and the Department of Justice has reconfirmed it will not be used moving forward.”
Her statement came after three news organizations have said that the Trump Justice Department had seized or tried to seize phone and other records of their journalists.
Last week, the New York Times said records of four reporters had been secretly sought, and that the investigation had continued into the Biden administration.
In May, CNN reported the Justice Department had secretly obtained phone and email records its Pentagon correspondent from June and July of 2017. The report did not say why the department wanted the records, when the investigation was opened, or who was attorney general when that decision was made.
In April, The Washington Post reported the department got telephone records and attempted to get the email records of three of its reporters who were looking into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
President Joe Biden told reporters at a press conference on May 21 that it was “simply, simply wrong” for the Justice Department to obtain the telephone and email records of journalists, and “I will not let that happen.”©2021 Bloomberg L.P. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC