Trump administration spied on Democrats in Congress — and even their children: NYT

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Orange Big Butt is Watching
Shocking new information is coming out about the scope of Department of Justice efforts to track down leaks about the Trump administration.

"As the Justice Department investigated who was behind leaks of classified information early in the Trump administration, it took a highly unusual step: Prosecutors subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, aides and family members. One was a minor," The New York Times reported Thursday. "All told, the records of at least a dozen people tied to the committee were seized in 2017 and early 2018, including those of Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, then the panel's top Democrat and now its chairman, according to committee officials and two other people briefed on the inquiry."

Two of Trump's attorneys general are implicated in the scandal.

"Prosecutors, under the beleaguered attorney general, Jeff Sessions, were hunting for the sources behind news media reports about contacts between Trump associates and Russia. Ultimately, the data and other evidence did not tie the committee to the leaks, and investigators debated whether they had hit a dead end and some even discussed closing the inquiry," the newspaper reported. "But William P. Barr revived languishing leak investigations after he became attorney general a year later. He moved a trusted prosecutor from New Jersey with little relevant experience to the main Justice Department to work on the Schiff-related case and about a half-dozen others, according to three people with knowledge of his work who did not want to be identified discussing federal investigations."

The effort is unprecedented.

"The zeal in the Trump administration's efforts to hunt leakers led to the extraordinary step of subpoenaing communications metadata from members of Congress — a nearly unheard-of move outside of corruption investigations. While Justice Department leak investigations are routine, current and former congressional officials familiar with the inquiry said they could not recall an instance in which the records of lawmakers had been seized as part of one," the newspaper reported. "Moreover, just as it did in investigating news organizations, the Justice Department secured a gag order on Apple that expired this year, according to a person familiar with the inquiry, so lawmakers did not know they were being investigated until Apple informed them last month."
https://www.rawstory.com/trump-spied/

Some people are pissed about this.
Adam Schiff calls for probe after revelation Trump administration spied on his family: report

On Thursday, The New York Times dropped a bombshell report that former President Donald Trump's Justice Department got a subpoena from Apple to spy on politically opposed members of Congress and their families, including House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA).

According to CNN's John Berman, Schiff is calling for an inspector general investigation into whether any misconduct was involved in the surveillance.

Schiff also took to Twitter to fire back against the former president, writing, "This baseless investigation, while now closed, is yet another example of Trump's corrupt weaponization of justice. And how much he imperiled our democracy."
https://www.rawstory.com/trump-spied-2653310388/
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.-Huxley
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." ~ Louis Brandeis,

Re: Trump administration spied on Democrats in Congress — and even their children: NYT

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The full New York Times article.
As the Justice Department investigated who was behind leaks of classified information early in the Trump administration, it took a highly unusual step: Prosecutors subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, aides and family members. One was a minor.

All told, the records of at least a dozen people tied to the committee were seized in 2017 and early 2018, including those of Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, then the panel’s top Democrat and now its chairman, according to committee officials and two other people briefed on the inquiry.

Prosecutors, under the beleaguered attorney general, Jeff Sessions, were hunting for the sources behind news media reports about contacts between Trump associates and Russia. Ultimately, the data and other evidence did not tie the committee to the leaks, and investigators debated whether they had hit a dead end and some even discussed closing the inquiry.

But William P. Barr revived languishing leak investigations after he became attorney general a year later. He moved a trusted prosecutor from New Jersey with little relevant experience to the main Justice Department to work on the Schiff-related case and about a half-dozen others, according to three people with knowledge of his work who did not want to be identified discussing federal investigations.

The zeal in the Trump administration’s efforts to hunt leakers led to the extraordinary step of subpoenaing communications metadata from members of Congress — a nearly unheard-of move outside of corruption investigations. While Justice Department leak investigations are routine, current and former congressional officials familiar with the inquiry said they could not recall an instance in which the records of lawmakers had been seized as part of one.

Moreover, just as it did in investigating news organizations, the Justice Department secured a gag order on Apple that expired this year, according to a person familiar with the inquiry, so lawmakers did not know they were being investigated until Apple informed them last month.

Prosecutors also eventually secured subpoenas for reporters’ records to try to identify their confidential sources, a move that department policy allows only after all other avenues of inquiry are exhausted.

The subpoenas remained secret until the Justice Department disclosed them in recent weeks to the news organizations — The Washington Post, The New York Times and CNN — revelations that set off criticism that the government was intruding on press freedoms.


The gag orders and records seizures show how aggressively the Trump administration pursued the inquiries while Mr. Trump declared war on the news media and perceived enemies whom he routinely accused of disclosing damaging information about him, including Mr. Schiff and James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director whom prosecutors focused on in the leak inquiry involving Times records.

“Notwithstanding whether there was sufficient predication for the leak investigation itself, including family members and minor children strikes me as extremely aggressive,” said David Laufman, a former Justice Department official who worked on leak investigations. “In combination with former President Trump’s unmistakable vendetta against Congressman Schiff, it raises serious questions about whether the manner in which this investigation was conducted was influenced by political considerations rather than purely legal ones.”

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment, as did Mr. Barr and a representative for Apple.

As the years wore on, some officials argued in meetings that charges were becoming less realistic, former Justice Department officials said: They lacked strong evidence, and a jury might not care about information reported years earlier.

The Trump administration also declassified some of the information, making it harder for prosecutors to argue that publishing it had harmed the United States. And the president’s attacks on Mr. Schiff and Mr. Comey would allow defense lawyers to argue that any charges were attempts to wield the power of law enforcement against Mr. Trump’s enemies.


But Mr. Barr directed prosecutors to continue investigating, contending that the Justice Department’s National Security Division had allowed the cases to languish, according to three people briefed on the cases. Some cases had nothing to do with leaks about Mr. Trump and involved sensitive national security information, one of the people said. But Mr. Barr’s overall view of leaks led some people in the department to eventually see the inquiries as politically motivated.

Mr. Schiff called the subpoenas for data on committee members and staff another example of Mr. Trump using the Justice Department as a “cudgel against his political opponents and members of the media.”

“It is increasingly apparent that those demands did not fall on deaf ears,” Mr. Schiff said in a statement. “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.”

He said the department informed him in May that the investigation into his committee was closed. But he called on its independent inspector general to investigate the leak case and others that “suggest the weaponization of law enforcement,” an appeal joined by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Early Hunt for Leaks

Soon after Mr. Trump took office in 2017, press reports based on sensitive or classified intelligence threw the White House into chaos. They detailed conversations between the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time and Mr. Trump’s top aides, the president’s pressuring of the F.B.I. and other matters related to the Russia investigation.

The White House was adamant that the sources be found and prosecuted, and the Justice Department began a broad look at national security officials from the Obama administration, according to five people briefed on the inquiry.

While most officials were ruled out, investigators opened cases that focused on Mr. Comey and his deputy, Andrew G. McCabe, the people said. Prosecutors also began to scrutinize the House Intelligence Committee, including Mr. Schiff, as a potential source of the leaks. As the House’s chief intelligence oversight body, the committee has regular access to sensitive government secrets.

Justice Department National Security Division officials briefed the deputy attorney general’s office nearly every other week on the investigations, three former department officials said.

In 2017 and 2018, a grand jury subpoenaed Apple and another internet service provider for the records of the people associated with the Intelligence Committee. They learned about most of the subpoenas last month, when Apple informed them that their records had been shared but did not detail the extent of the request, committee officials said. A second service provider had notified one member of the committee’s staff about such a request last year.

It was not clear why family members or children were involved, but the investigators could have sought the accounts because they were linked or on the theory that parents were using their children’s phones or computers to hide contacts with journalists.

There do not appear to have been similar grand jury subpoenas for records of members or staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to another official familiar with the matter. A spokesman for Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee did not respond to a question about whether they were issued subpoenas. The Justice Department has declined to tell Democrats on the committee whether any Republicans were investigated.

Apple turned over only metadata and account information, not photos, emails or other content, according to the person familiar with the inquiry.

After the records provided no proof of leaks, prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington discussed ending that piece of their investigation. But Mr. Barr’s decision to bring in an outside prosecutor helped keep the case alive.

A CNN report in August 2019 about another leak investigation said prosecutors did not recommend to their superiors that they charge Mr. Comey over memos that he wrote and shared about his interactions with Mr. Trump, which were not ultimately found to contain classified information.

Mr. Barr was wary of how Mr. Trump would react, according to a person familiar with the situation. Indeed, Mr. Trump berated the attorney general, who defended the department, telling the president that there was no case against Mr. Comey to be made, the person said. But an investigation remained open into whether Mr. Comey had leaked other classified information about Russia.

Revived Cases

In February 2020, Mr. Barr placed the prosecutor from New Jersey, Osmar Benvenuto, into the National Security Division. His background was in gang and health care fraud prosecutions.

Through a Justice Department spokesman, Mr. Benvenuto declined to comment.

Mr. Benvenuto’s appointment was in keeping with Mr. Barr’s desire to keep matters of great interest to the White House in the hands of a small circle of trusted aides and officials.

With Mr. Benvenuto involved in the leak inquiries, the F.B.I. questioned Michael Bahar, a former House Intelligence Committee staff member who had gone into private practice in May 2017. The interview, conducted in late spring of 2020, did not yield evidence that led to charges.

Prosecutors also redoubled efforts to find out who had leaked material related to Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser. Details about conversations he had in late 2016 with the Russian ambassador at the time, Sergey I. Kislyak, appeared in news reports in early 2017 and eventually helped prompt both his ouster and federal charges against him. The discussions had also been considered highly classified because the F.B.I. had used a court-authorized secret wiretap of Mr. Kislyak to monitor them.

But John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence and close ally of Mr. Trump’s, seemed to damage the leak inquiry in May 2020, when he declassified transcripts of the calls. The authorized disclosure would have made it more difficult for prosecutors to argue that the news stories had hurt national security.

Separately, one of the prosecutors whom Mr. Barr had directed to re-examine the F.B.I.’s criminal case against Mr. Flynn interviewed at least one law enforcement official in the leak investigation after the transcripts were declassified, a move that a person familiar with the matter labeled politically fraught.

The biweekly updates on the leak investigations between top officials continued. Julie Edelstein, the deputy chief of counterintelligence and export control, and Matt Blue, the head of the department’s counterterrorism section, briefed John C. Demers, the head of the National Security Division, and Seth DuCharme, an official in the deputy attorney general’s office, on their progress. Mr. Benvenuto was involved in briefings with Mr. Barr.

Mr. Demers, Ms. Edelstein, Mr. Blue and Mr. Benvenuto are still at the Justice Department. Their continued presence and leadership roles would seem to ensure that Mr. Biden’s appointees, including Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, would have a full understanding of the investigations.
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/10/us/p ... ation.html


Hope the DOJ inspector general gets to the bottom of it quickly.
"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts." - Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Re: Trump administration spied on Democrats in Congress — and even their children: NYT

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Apple said Friday it didn’t know former President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice was asking for the metadata of Democratic lawmakers when it complied with a subpoena seeking the information.

Apple’s admission that it complied with the DOJ’s request demonstrates the thorny position tech companies are placed in when forced to balance their customers’ private online activity with legitimate requests from law enforcement. In general, companies like Apple challenge such requests, but in this case a grand jury and federal judge forced Apple to comply and keep it quiet.

The admission follows a Thursday New York Times report that Trump’s DOJ seized at least a dozen records from people close to the House intelligence panel related to news reports on the former president’s contacts with Russia. At the time, the DOJ was looking for records from House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and committee member Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.

Apple said it received a subpoena from a federal grand jury on Feb. 6, 2018. According to Apple, the subpoena requested data that belonged to a seemingly random group of email addresses and phone numbers. Apple said it provided the identifiers it had for some of the requests from the DOJ, but not all of the requests were for Apple customers.

Because of a nondisclosure order signed by a federal magistrate judge, Apple could not notify the people that their data was subpoenaed. The so-called gag order lifted on May 5, which is why Apple only recently alerted the affected users. According to Apple, the subpoena did not provide details on the nature of the investigation.

Apple spokesperson Fred Sainz said in a statement that the company did not and could not have known who was being targeted by the request.

“We regularly challenge warrants, subpoenas and nondisclosure orders and have made it our policy to inform affected customers of governmental requests about them just as soon as possible,” Sainz said in the statement. “In this case, the subpoena, which was was issued by a federal grand jury and included a nondisclosure order signed by a federal magistrate judge, provided no information on the nature of the investigation and it would have been virtually impossible for Apple to understand the intent of the desired information without digging through users’ accounts. Consistent with the request, Apple limited the information it provided to account subscriber information and did not provide any content such as emails or pictures.”

Apple also said that due to the nature of the subpoena, it believed other tech companies received similar orders from the DOJ.

Microsoft on Friday told CNBC it received a similar subpoena from the DOJ.

“In 2017 Microsoft received a subpoena related to a personal email account,” a Microsoft spokesperson told CNBC. “As we’ve said before, we believe customers have a constitutional right to know when the government requests their email or documents, and we have a right to tell them. In this case, we were prevented from notifying the customer for more than two years because of a gag order. As soon as the gag order expired, we notified the customer who told us they were a congressional staffer. We then provided a briefing to the representative’s staff following that notice. We will continue to aggressively seek reform that imposes reasonable limits on government secrecy in cases like this.”

The DOJ’s watchdog [DOJ Inspector General] is currently investigating the probe under Trump’s tenure.
https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/11/apple-s ... -data.html

It comes down to DOJ prosecutors and Sessions and Barr. And did the magistrate judge ask enough questions before signing the gag order.
"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts." - Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Re: Trump administration spied on Democrats in Congress — and even their children: NYT

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Watergate prosecutor explains why it's Bill Barr and Jeff Sessions are lying they knew nothing of Trump's spying

Former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks explained on MSNBC Sunday that there's no way that Attorney Generals Bill Barr and Jeff Sessions didn't know about the warrants to spy on reporters, Democratic members of Congress, their staff and families, and of his own White House counsel.

Barr, Sessions and former Justice Department deputy Rod Rosenstein have all denied they knew of the subpoenas to spy, but Wine-Banks explained that's impossible because something like this would go all the way to the top.

"It may be that the person that they were investigating, had a legitimate predication for the search warrants and that they had some reason to do this," she told MSNBC. "It could have been that he got called by somebody that they were already investigating. It doesn't mean this is normal. It is not normal, and I think the investigation is absolutely critical, holding someone accountable is important to stop this from ever happening again. We can't have members of Congress, the press, and the White House counsel subjected to this. And the reason Don McGahan, of course, is of concern is because he was cooperating with Mueller which made him an enemy of Donald Trump. Donald Trump was calling out [Adam] Schiff, he was calling out [Eric] Swalwell, people who were subject to this search warrant, and he certainly must have felt uncomfortable with his own White House counsel who was cooperating and telling the truth to Mueller. So, that's why it's of concern."

Sessions said that he was never briefed on this seizure of records. Barr played fast and loose with the language, saying that he never discussed the leak cases with Trump. That was similar language to Barr's refusal to answer when then-Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) questioned him about Trump or anybody else who "asked or suggested" that he open an investigation into his political foes. Barr pretended not to know what the word "suggested" meant and refused to answer.

Host Alicia Menendez asked Wine-Banks if it was possible they didn't have any idea what was going on.

"In my opinion, no, and let me tell you why," said Wine-Banks. "First of all, we had [Osmar] Benvenuto, who was brought in at the recommendation of the U.S. Attorney from New Jersey, who was put in by Barr to replace the New York attorney who he was pushing out. He recommended Benvenuto who came in, and Benvenuto has said -- in a recording, that he briefed Barr at least every other week. So, it is not credible. And if Barr didn't know about this, then Barr is the worst manager, the worst Attorney General ever, because that is his job. The Department of Justice policy requires that there be notice and approval from a higher source. So, it's not something that you can just subpoena a member of Congress' records or a reporter's records without something much more. So, it doesn't pass what I call the 'red face test.' It's like, could I stand up before a jury and say this in front of them without blushing or giggling? The answer is, no, I couldn't."

Apple said in a statement that the DOJ request provided "no information on the nature of the investigation and it would have been virtually impossible for Apple to understand the intent of the desired information without digging through users' accounts."

Presumably, the court documents would have detailed who appeared in court for the warrant and there should be enough of a paper trail that some of the Justice Department officials involved were named. Barr hasn't actually denied that he played any role in renewing the requests or that he didn't know of the investigation. He's only said he didn't discuss it with Trump. It's unclear why he would have discussed it given he wasn't there when the investigation was launched. The gag order against Apple was renewed over and over again, which would have also required a lot of paperwork.
https://www.rawstory.com/watergate-bar ... ed-spying/

I don’t know if the Sgt. Schultz defense “I know nothing!” will work for ether of the former AGs.
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.-Huxley
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." ~ Louis Brandeis,

Re: Trump administration spied on Democrats in Congress — and even their children: NYT

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When I see stuff like this, I think of how the Obama Administration spied on the press generally, and also invaded Sharyl Attkisson's home and computer after she dared to actually report on Operation Fast 'N' Furious. If the NYT is telling the truth--and since they're now Democrat Party activists, I often doubt their veracity these days--then it is what Administrations, both Democrat and Republican, have been doing for far too long.
"San Francisco Liberal With A Gun"
http://www.sanfranciscoliberalwithagun.com/ (reloading instruction)
http://www.liberalsguncorner.com/ (podcast)
---------------------------------------
A true Liberal must back the Second Amendment 100%!

Re: Trump administration spied on Democrats in Congress — and even their children: NYT

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CowboyT wrote: Mon Jun 14, 2021 9:28 pm When I see stuff like this, I think of how the Obama Administration spied on the press generally, and also invaded Sharyl Attkisson's home and computer after she dared to actually report on Operation Fast 'N' Furious. If the NYT is telling the truth--and since they're now Democrat Party activists, I often doubt their veracity these days--then it is what Administrations, both Democrat and Republican, have been doing for far too long.
We can just go back in history to J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI spied on whoever he wanted and it didn’t make any difference what party was in control.
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.-Huxley
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." ~ Louis Brandeis,

Re: Trump administration spied on Democrats in Congress — and even their children: NYT

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That's true, and that's what made megalomaniacs like J. Edgar Hoover so dangerous to our republic. I believe the rules were changed on how long an FBI Director can serve precisely because of JEH. No matter who does it, it's wrong.
"San Francisco Liberal With A Gun"
http://www.sanfranciscoliberalwithagun.com/ (reloading instruction)
http://www.liberalsguncorner.com/ (podcast)
---------------------------------------
A true Liberal must back the Second Amendment 100%!

Re: Trump administration spied on Democrats in Congress — and even their children: NYT

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Apple announced that it was also subpoenaed by the Trump DOJ for data on Trump's White House Counsel Don McGahn II. Another gag order signed by a judge prohibited them from notifying McGahn.
Apple told Mr. McGahn about the subpoena last month, said one of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter. Mr. McGahn’s wife also received a similar notice from Apple, the person said.

It is not clear what F.B.I. agents were investigating, whether Mr. McGahn was their specific focus or whether he was swept up in a larger net because he had communicated with someone who was under scrutiny. As the top lawyer for the 2016 Trump campaign and then the White House counsel, Mr. McGahn was in contact with numerous people who may have drawn attention either as part of the Russia investigation or a later leak inquiry.

Still, the disclosure that agents had collected data of a sitting White House counsel, which they kept secret for years, is extraordinary.

And it comes amid a political backlash after revelations that the Trump administration secretly seized the personal data of reporters and Democrats in Congress from phone and tech companies while investigating leaks.

Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill on Sunday ratcheted up pressure on the Justice Department and former officials to provide a fuller accounting of events. They called on the head of the Justice Department’s national security division, John C. Demers, and the former deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, to testify before Congress along with the former attorneys general Jeff Sessions and William P. Barr.
Apple told Mr. McGahn that it had complied with the subpoena in a timely fashion but declined to tell him what it had provided the government, according to a person briefed on the matter. Under Justice Department policy, gag orders for subpoenas may be renewed for up to a year at a time, suggesting that prosecutors went to court several times to prevent Apple from notifying the McGahns earlier.

In investigations, agents sometimes compile a large list of phone numbers and email addresses that were in contact with a subject, and seek to identify all those people by using subpoenas to communications companies for any account information like names, computer addresses and credit card numbers associated with them.
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/13/us/p ... cgahn.html

John Demers head of the DOJs National Security Division resigned yesterday.

Biden's DOJ announced a new rule prohibiting them from going after reporters sources. Big Deal, another administration in the future can reverse that rule, it's no protection. There should be a statute law that has consequences for political appointees, prosecutors and judges that go on political fishing expeditions.
"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts." - Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Re: Trump administration spied on Democrats in Congress — and even their children: NYT

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highdesert wrote: Tue Jun 15, 2021 6:04 pm Biden's DOJ announced a new rule prohibiting them from going after reporters sources. Big Deal, another administration in the future can reverse that rule, it's no protection. There should be a statute law that has consequences for political appointees, prosecutors and judges that go on political fishing expeditions.
And should such a statute happen, it should be aimed at *anybody* regardless of political persuasion, be they Democrat, Republican, or otherwise. They shouldn't just try to protect their fellow Democrats if they do this.
"San Francisco Liberal With A Gun"
http://www.sanfranciscoliberalwithagun.com/ (reloading instruction)
http://www.liberalsguncorner.com/ (podcast)
---------------------------------------
A true Liberal must back the Second Amendment 100%!

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