Responding to a New York Times report that prosecutors in Donald Trump’s Department of Justice had subpoenaed the Apple communications metadata records of at least two House Intelligence Committee Democrats, their aides, and family members, California Rep. Adam Schiff told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Thursday that the seizures were “extraordinary, maybe unprecedented”—and insisted that whoever is responsible for this “politicization” of the DOJ must answer to Congress.
“We’re obviously deeply suspicious of what the Justice Department was doing,” said Schiff, who was the top Dem on the Intel Committee when the DOJ’s hunt for leaks against Trump led to the data seizures, and is now its chairman.
“But more than that, this looks like a patent abuse of the Department, yet another example of the President politicizing—using the Department of Justice as a cudgel to go after his enemies. He would repeatedly attack our committee, attack me personally, call for investigations of our committee while we were doing an investigation of him.”
Schiff continued, “And apparently those pleas were met with a receptive audience at the very top level of the Justice Department among [former Attorneys General Jeff] Sessions and Bill Barr, even though there was no evidence to support a leak coming from our committee.”
Although the Times reports that the fishing expedition sunk as low as taking the records of a Schiff staffer’s minor child, he declined to go into details, citing his aides’ privacy, but made it clear that he intends to see all the facts come out—no matter how much time it might require.
“Look, it’s going to take a decade for the Department to recover from this politicization,” he said. “It’s heart-breaking to see what he did to it, and how difficult it is to rely now on the impartiality of the department given this sordid four-year history.”
Schiff also said that the DOJ’s investigation was “so broad” that when a gag order on Apple expired in May, some people who were notified by the company that their records had been breached “thought it was spam.”
Schiff did ask the DOJ to come clean, he said, but, “The Justice Department has not been forthcoming.”
Schiff has already stated that he wants the DOJ’s independent Inspector General to investigate, but when Maddow asked if he expects Congress to “exercise its oversight” and compel current Attorney General Merrick Garland to answer for his predecessors’ actions, Schiff didn’t mince words:
“Merrick Garland will testify before different committees in Congress. I’m sure he will be asked about these actions by the Department—actions in going after Congress with baseless subpoenas, actions in going after reporters the way that they have, the gag orders that were issued… the intervention of the Attorney General.”
Schiff added that he also expects answers about William Barr reducing the sentence of Trump operative Roger Stone, as well as “the dismissal of the case against Michael Flynn,” the Trump National Security Advisor who admitted lying to federal authorities.
“I think,” Schiff concluded, “that the Attorney General has an obligation to clean house, to essentially understand exactly what the department was doing over the last four years [and] make sure that there’s accountability for those that were engaged in political and partisan investigations within the department…I do think the department needs to do a wholesale review.”
William Barr, as well as reps for the Justice Department and Apple, declined to comment to the Times.
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