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Trump administration said to have seized Democratic data during leak investigation

By
Kyle Barnett
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has called for an investigation after it was revealed that the Trump administration seized his metadata. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has called for an investigation after it was revealed that the Trump administration seized his metadata. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo

June 11 (UPI) -- The former Trump administration's Department of Justice collected data on top Democrat adversaries during an investigation into persistent leaks of classified information, sources said.

The New York Times reported the data was seized from Apple about half a dozen people, including top Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee and political aides.

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Investigations were launched in 2017 and 2018 focusing on cooperation between leakers from news agencies including the Washington Post, New York Times and CNN, which were alerted to the investigations but placed under a gag order.

Those whose phone records and email were seized in the investigation were informed last month. Information leaked was related in large part to the investigation of former FBI Director James Comey and his deputy, Andrew McCabe.

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The data in question was gathered as investigators sought the sources behind leaks regarding Trump confidants and Russia.

The Trump administration began the inquiries after sensitive information from a conversation between Trump and the Russian ambassador were leaked.

In that round up of information metadata from two ranking Democrat congressmen was vacuumed up under the investigation headed by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

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While seizing someone's data in such an investigation is part of standard procedure seizing metadata is not a common. Metadata provides information about other data which can give clues into the identifying from where it originated.

After Sessions left the attorney general position, his successor, William Barr, resumed the investigation the Times reported.

The attorney general's office was updated every week on the investigation former employees said. U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) was one of two Democrats whose data was seized, he said.

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"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," Schiff said in a statement.

"It is increasingly apparent that those demands did not fall on deaf ears. 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."

Schiff was the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee at the time and now serves as chairman. The other member of Congress targeted in the information roundup was Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), he said.

"I was notified ... that they did seize my records," Swalwell told CNN. "It's wrong. In is what they do. They smear and they try to clear.

"We have seen this through the justice department by Donald Trump, whether it was the reason he was impeached for trying to go after vice president Biden at the time, or just other efforts, you know, through the Mueller investigation. And I support chairman Schiff's call for an inspector general."

Schiff has called for an investigation into the data seizure.

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