Justice Department watchdog to investigate data entry as House Democrats discuss impacts of leak investigation
The request comes as Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee held a briefing led by President Adam Schiff. A source said members were “spirited” trying to figure out who in the Justice Department and the Trump administration was behind the attempt to seize their files.
Prosecutors were looking for the sources behind the reports about contacts between Russia and Trump’s associates.
Schumer and Durbin call on former attorneys general to testify
“If they refuse, they are likely to be subpoenaed and forced to testify under oath,” Democrats said in a statement.
“This question must not be partisan; under the Constitution Congress is a co-equal branch of government and must be shielded from an over-ambitious executive, and we hope our fellow Republicans will join us in going to the merits of this serious matter, “said Schumer and Durbin.
But a Senate aide explained that Democrats would need the support of at least one Republican on the equally divided Judiciary Committee to approve any subpoena.
So far, very few Republicans have spoken about the news of the Justice Department’s Trump investigation of House Democrats and whether they will support any effort to get the two former attorneys general to testify in the Senate. .
House Democrats, however, can issue subpoenas without GOP consent.
“We expect the Ministry to provide a full account of these cases, and we expect the Attorney General to hold relevant staff accountable for their conduct,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, in a press release on Friday. “If the Department does not make substantial progress towards these two goals, then we, the Judiciary Committee, will have no choice but to step in and do the work ourselves.”
Democrats to ask Apple to determine if additional members have been targeted by DOJ
Democrats on the Intelligence Committee plan to ask Apple to determine whether additional members have been targeted by Trump’s Justice Department, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Members provide staff with all of their different numbers and accounts, and staff will ask Apple to provide information as to whether they have been assigned a DOJ.
Generic “Apple notices” were sent to members whose files were seized, sent on May 5, the source said. But members are concerned that these generic emails may have been ignored, deleted, or scanned into their spam folders.
Barr says Trump didn’t point him at target lawmakers
The person said the cases the attorney general weighed in were recommended by career officials in the Criminal Division and elsewhere in the department. The former attorney general did not notify Trump of any of the leak probes, although the president would raise the leaks and the need to investigate with the attorney general, the person said.
The leak investigation targeting lawmakers was over a year old when Barr took office in 2019, but Barr made an early commitment to help answer lingering questions from Conservatives about fairness in treatment by the Department of Justice politically sensitive investigations. Like Trump, Barr had suspicions about the leaks and believed the department’s credibility was at stake if it couldn’t show he was fully investigating them, people briefed on the matter said.
According to Politico, Barr said that while he was attorney general he was “not aware of any file of a wanted congressman in a leakage case,” while he was attorney general and said that former President Donald Trump never asked him to target lawmakers for investigation.
Trump “didn’t know who we were looking at in any of the cases,” Barr told Politico. “I never discussed the leaks with Trump. He didn’t really ask me for details.”
Republicans focus on potential leaks
Leading Republicans issued statements focusing on potential leaks the Justice Department was investigating rather than methods, and declined to judge whether the department was following the rules.
“Classified leaks and abuse of power are serious offenses that must be punished with strict consequences,” said top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley of Iowa. “We know that the Justice Department is capable of abusing its power, as it did when it secretly spied on and conducted intelligence operations against the Trump campaign. We also know that classified information in possession of Congress may be disclosed to the press, as can the case with the FISA-classified Carter Page – the proceeds of that abuse. “
He added that the Justice Department had already investigated lawmakers.
“Investigations of members of Congress and staff are not new, particularly for classified leaks,” Grassley said in a statement.
Utah GOP Representative Chris Stewart echoed that sentiment.
“I have been concerned and have expressed my concern about the leak of classified information for many years. Leaks harm our national security, shatter trust between government officials and the American people, and are very often misleading, even completely inaccurate. ”Stewart, a member of the Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.
“I support the investigation into the leaks of classified information,” he added. “When the DOJ acts within its legal limits, members of the intelligence committee should not be immune from proper investigations.”
White House calls reports “appalling”
During the Biden administration’s first reaction to the camera on Friday, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield called the reports “appalling.”
“The reports on the behavior of Donald Trump’s attorney general are appalling,” Bedingfield said during an appearance on MSNBC from Cornwall, England.
Bedingfield suggested that President Joe Biden has a “very different relationship” with the Department of Justice than his predecessor, denouncing the Trump administration’s “abuse of power” with the department, and adding that the Department of Justice of the Biden administration is “run very, very differently.” “
Biden, Bedingfield said, “respects the independence of the Department of Justice, and that’s an extremely important part of how he governs.”
Swalwell says Trump ‘militarized’ Justice Department
California Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell, whose data was seized by the Trump administration, said Trump had “armed” the Justice Department to dig into private communications.
Asked by Sciutto on Friday if he had disclosed any classified information involving investigations, Swalwell replied, “No, never.”
This story has been updated with additional reports.
CNN’s Betsy Klein, Ted Barrett, Ryan Nobles, Brian Fung, Katelyn Polantz, and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.