Congress, Justice Dept. probing Trump seizures of Dems' data

www.startribune.com
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fairly difficult
The Justice Department's internal watchdog launched an investigation Friday after revelations that former President Donald Trump's administration secretly seized phone data from at least two House Democrats.
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department's internal watchdog launched an investigation Friday after revelations that former President Donald Trump's administration secretly seized phone data from at least two House Democrats as part of an aggressive leaks probe. Democrats called the seizures a "shocking" abuse of power.

The announcement by Inspector General Michael Horowitz came shortly after Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco made the request Friday. Horowitz said he would examine whether the data turned over by Apple followed department policy and "whether any such uses, or the investigations, were based upon improper considerations."

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and another Democratic member of the panel, California Rep. Eric Swalwell, said Apple notified them last month that their metadata had been subpoenaed and turned over to the Justice Department in 2018, as their committee was investigating the former president's ties to Russia. Schiff was then the top Democrat on the panel, then led by Republicans.

While the Justice Department routinely investigates leaked information, including classified intelligence, subpoenaing the private information of members of Congress is extraordinarily rare. The disclosures, first reported by the New York Times, raise questions about what the Justice Department's justification was for spying on another branch of government and whether it was done for political reasons.

The Trump administration's attempt to secretly gain access to the data came as the president was fuming publicly and privately over investigations — in Congress and by then-special counsel Robert Mueller — into his campaign's ties to Russia. Trump called the probes a "witch hunt," regularly criticized Democrats and Mueller on Twitter and repeatedly dismissed as "fake news" leaks he found harmful to his agenda. As the investigations swirled around him, he demanded loyalty from a…
MARY CLARE JALONICK, MICHAEL BALSAMO, Associated Press
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