DOJ's watchdog opens investigation into the Trump-era seizure of Democrats' phone data

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DOJ's watchdog opens investigation into the Trump-era seizure of Democrats' phone data
Former President Donald Trump.AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File
  • The DOJ's watchdog opened an investigation into the Trump-era seizure of Democrats' phone data.
  • The data was collected in 2018 as part of an aggressive leak investigation by the Trump DOJ.
  • Democrats threatened to subpoena Bill Barr and Jeff Sessions to testify about the "appalling" matter.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco asked the Justice Department inspector general on Friday to open an investigation into the Trump administration's seizure of House Democrats' phone data, The Associated Press reported. Inspector general Michael Horowitz released a statement shortly after saying he would probe the matter.

The data was collected in 2018 as part of the Trump DOJ's investigation into leaking to the media. The New York Times reported that the DOJ seized from Apple the phone metadata of two Democrats, Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, on the House Intelligence Committee. The department also seized the data of family members and aides of the two lawmakers. One person whose data was collected was a minor, The Times said.

Following The Times' reporting, Monaco on Friday asked Horowitz to investigate the matter. Senate Democrats also threatened to subpoena Bill Barr and Jeff Sessions, who were both attorneys general during the Trump administrations, to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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"This is a gross abuse of power and an assault on the separation of powers," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and judiciary committee chairman Dick Durbin said in a joint statement Friday. "This appalling politicization of the Department of Justice by Donald Trump and his sycophants must be investigated immediately by both the DOJ Inspector General and Congress."

Trump's former longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen also weighed in on the controversy, telling Insider's Jacob Shamsian: "Like the mafia, the Justice Department became nothing more than a corrupt arm of the Trump administration; run by Donald J. Trump as its head of the family. Every person whose account was subpoenaed should be notified and the complete list of individuals should immediately be released to the media."

Horowitz said in his statement that he would also examine the department's efforts to seize reporters' data as part of leak investigations during the Trump administration. The Biden DOJ continued the practice but reversed course after President Joe Biden came out in opposition to the practice.

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"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," Horowitz said.

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