Apple on Friday revealed additional detail about subpoenas it received from the Trump administration’s Department of Justice seeking data about members of the House Intelligence Committee.
Apple told TechCrunch reporter Zack Whittaker the DOJ’s subpoenas sought metadata about 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, but that it only disclosed “account subscriber information and did not provide any content such as emails or pictures.”
Apple also told TechCrunch the subpoena was issued by a federal grand jury, included a gag order signed by a federal magistrate judge, and “provided no information on the nature of the investigation,” making it “virtually impossible for Apple to understand the intent of the desired information without digging through users’ accounts.”
“We regularly challenge warrants, subpoenas and nondisclosure orders and have made it our policy to inform affected customers of governmental requests about them as soon as possible,” Apple added, implying the gag order prevented it from informing lawmakers targeted by the subpoenas until recently.
The highly unusual subpoenas issued by the Trump-era DOJ sought data from Apple on at least two Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee, as well as aides, family members, and even one minor, with the goal of hunting down sources behind news reports about connections between Trump associates and Russia, The New York Times reported this week.
While searching for the source of leaked intelligence regarding the Russia investigation, Trump’s Justice Department seized records from Apple belonging to Democrats in Congress, The New York Times reported Thursday.
A grand jury subpoenaed Apple for communications data belonging to people surrounding the House Intelligence Committee. A source told The Times that Apple delivered metadata and account information, but not emails, photos, or other content.
The records belonged to members of the House Intelligence Committee, including Rep. Adam Schiff of California, as well as their staffers and families, including one minor, The Times reported, and records of at least 12 people were obtained in 2017 and 2018.
Schiff served as the committee’s ranking member at the time. He now serves as chairman.
The Times reported that officials were looking for the source of leaked information concerning Trump allies’ communications with Russia, but that the records did not connect the leaks to the committee.
The probe into the records began under Attorney General Jeff Sessions and was revived under his successor, Bill Barr, sources told The Times.
The department also successfully restricted Apple from making their records requests public, so the targeted lawmakers were unaware they were being examined until Apple informed them last month after the gag order expired.
In a statement provided to Insider, Schiff blasted former President Donald Trump for targeting committee members and called for an investigation.
“President Trump repeatedly and flagrantly demanded that the Department of Justice carry out his political will, and tried to use the Department as a cudgel against his political opponents and members of the media,” he said. “The politicization of the Department and the attacks on the rule of law are among the most dangerous assaults on our democracy carried out by the former President.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the revelation “harrowing” and also called for an investigation.
A representative for Apple declined to comment, The Times said.
Former White House counsel Don McGahn told Congress this month that there was never a good “beginning, middle, and end” to his conversations with Donald Trump when Trump was president.
McGahn served as White House counsel for nearly two years before resigning in October 2018. He was a central witness in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice in the FBI’s Russia probe. After months of battling Congress’s requests for testimony, McGahn finally appeared behind closed doors last week. The House Judiciary Committee released a transcript of McGahn’s testimony on Wednesday.
At one point, the lead counsel for the House Judiciary Committee asked McGahn about one of the episodes Mueller highlighted in his report connected to the obstruction probe. Specifically, Trump told McGahn in the midst of the Russia investigation that he wanted to fire Mueller. McGahn refused and said doing so could be “another fact used to claim of obstruction of justice.”
The committee’s counsel, Sarah Istel, asked McGahn what other facts he was referring to during that conversation.
McGahn mentioned other data points in the obstruction probe including Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey and his efforts to stop Comey from investigating former national security advisor Michael Flynn.
McGahn stopped short of saying these instances definitively constituted obstruction but said he was concerned about how they could be perceived by the public.
After some back and forth about the semantics of McGahn’s claim that firing Mueller could be “another fact” used to claim he obstructed justice, Istel asked McGahn about his assessment that Trump could face the “biggest exposure” from his efforts to hamper Comey’s investigation into Flynn.
McGahn said he didn’t remember if he specifically used the word “exposure” but specified that he didn’t believe Comey’s removal was a legal issue for Trump because the president has the power to fire the FBI director.
“The real issues were more around former Director Comey’s recounting of meetings” and conversations he had with Trump, during which Trump asked him to lay off of investigating Flynn and demanded Comey’s loyalty.
“That was more, as a lawyer, where I was looking to alert the president,” McGahn said.
Istel then asked McGahn how he ended that conversation with Trump.
“No, I don’t recall. No,” he said. “You rarely leave conversations with President Trump. There’s never really a good beginning, middle, and end. It’s just – especially when you’re the counsel. You’re always kind of around.”
Indeed, McGahn’s name surfaced several times in Mueller’s report, including once when the special counsel detailed his reaction to Trump’s directive that Mueller be fired.
“McGahn spoke with the President twice and understood the directive the same way both times, making it unlikely that he misheard or misinterpreted the President’s request,” the report said. “In response to that request, McGahn decided to quit. He called his lawyer, drove to the White House, packed up his office, prepared to submit a resignation letter with his chief of staff, told [then-White House Chief of Staff Reince] Priebus that the President had asked him to ‘do crazy s—.'”
The Department of Justice has said it will appeal a federal court order requiring it to release a 2019 memo that was cited by then-Attorney General Bill Barr as grounds not to charge former President Donald Trump with obstruction of justice following Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
The memo was written by officials at the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, and addressed the evidence in the Mueller report on whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election, and whether Trump sought to obstruct Mueller’s investigation.
Barr had cited the memo as one of his reasons not to bring charges against Trump on the basis of the report.
But in a May 5 ruling, federal judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered that the memo be released, arguing that the DOJ’s grounds for keeping it sealed on the basis that it is a “deliberative document” were false.
Berman made the ruling following a Freedom of Information Act request from the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics.
Under Freedom of Information Act rules, “deliberative documents” that are used to make government decisions are exempt from public release.
The unredacted document is expected to provide new insights into one of the key controversies of the Trump era: Why the president was not charged by his DOJ with obstruction despite some evidence in the report indicating that he had sought to derail the Mueller probe.
Barr was heavily criticized after the release of the Mueller report, with some saying he misled the public ahead of the release about the seriousness of the misconduct that Mueller’s investigators uncovered.
A heavily redacted, 1 1/2-page report was released Monday night
Mueller had declined to reach a conclusion on the accusation Trump obstructed justice, citing DOJ rules against bringing charges against a sitting president.
But in the unredacted sections just released, officials at the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel wrote that Mueller’s position “might be read to imply such an accusation if the confidential report were released to the public.”
“Therefore, we recommend that you examine the Report to determine whether prosecution would be appropriate” to resolve any potential legal ambiguity,” the memo said.
The newly-released memo said that there was insufficient evidence in the Mueller report to charge Trump with obstruction, but the specific grounds by which they reached that decision were unclear as that part remains redacted.
In her order for the DOJ memo to be released, Judge Jackson argued that Barr had falsely claimed that he was acting on the basis of the document in not charging Trump, whereas in reality he had made the decision already.
In its Monday filing, the DOJ said that “its briefs [to the court] could have been clearer, and it deeply regrets the confusion that caused. But the government’s counsel and declarants did not intend to mislead the Court.”
‘Detrimental to what American democracy is all about’
In a Monday interview with MSNBC, Neal Katyal, who served as acting Solicitor general under former President Barack Obama, slammed the DOJ’s decision to appeal the release of the ful report.
“We waited and waited and waited and to bury this is, I think, detrimental to what American democracy is all about,” he remarked.
In the final days of his term, President Donald Trump considered making Michael Flynn his chief of staff, according to the New York Times.
Flynn was the former national security advisor who was fired just weeks into the job.
He pleaded guilty in December 2017 to one count of lying to investigators as part of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Specifically, he admitted to misleading FBI investigators in a January 2017 interview about his communications with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the US at the time, during the 2016 transition period.
“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon,” Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”
A month later, Trump floated the idea of bringing Flynn back into the White House, with just weeks to go before the transition to the Biden administration, the Times reported.
At a White House meeting, Trump said he wanted Flynn to look over the FBI. He also considered establishing Flynn as his chief of staff, according to the Times.
It’s unclear whether Trump was serious about the suggestions, the Times reported. Flynn declined the offers because he wanted to pay down the legal debts from participating in the Russia investigation.
In the public eye, Flynn has continued to be one of Trump’s most ardent supporters. He was booted off Twitter in January, after using the platform to urge Trump to use martial law to overturn the results of the presidential election.
Joe Biden won the election in November. But in the weeks following, Trump and his supporters – like Flynn – continuously made baseless allegations of fraud to try an make Americans believe the results were invalid.
Flynn leveraged his QAnon fanbase to pay down the legal bills he amassed during the Russia investigation, the Times reported. Flynn has been selling merchandise like T-shirts and hats featuring the “Where we go one, we go all” QAnon motto.