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Justice Department watchdog opens internal probe into House Dems data subpoenas

Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Friday announced the opening of an internal probe into the department's Trump-era secret subpoenas against Apple for data belonging to House Democrats.

The state of play: It comes after a request from Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco and calls from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for an investigation into the matter.


Context: The DOJ obtained a gag order against Apple and subpoenaed the company to hand over data belonging to House Intelligence Committee members, their aides and family members as part of its crackdown on media leaks related to the investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

  • At least a dozen people linked to the House Intelligence Committee had records seized between 2017 and early 2018, including Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who now chairs the committee and has also called for an inspector general investigation.
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a fierce critic of former President Trump, was also targeted.
  • The data handed over by Apple and other evidence ultimately did not tie the committee members or other people linked to the committee to the leaks, according to the New York Times.

What they're saying: "The DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is initiating a review of DOJ’s use of subpoenas and other legal authorities to obtain communication records of Members of Congress and affiliated persons, and the news media in connection with recent investigations of alleged unauthorized disclosures of information to the media by government officials," Horowitz said Friday.

  • "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."
  • "If circumstances warrant, the OIG will consider other issues that may arise during the review," Horowitz added.

Pelosi called the subpoenas "yet another egregious assault on our democracy waged by the former president."

The big picture: As part of the leak investigation, Trump's Justice Department also secretly seized the phone records of journalists working for CNN, Washington Post and New York Times.

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