The Justice Department’s inspector general will investigate the department’s handling of a leak investigation into former President Donald Trump’s political enemies that included a subpoena to collect metadata of lawmakers, staff and some family members, the office announced Friday.
The request comes as House Intelligence Committee Democrats hold a briefing at which Chairman Adam Schiff is expected to talk with his members about what the committee has learned, a source familiar tells CNN.
The activity follows the bombshell revelation that prosecutors in the Trump administration Justice Department subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of House Intelligence Committee Democrats along with their staff and family members as part of a leak investigation.
The prosecutors were looking for the sources behind news stories about contacts between Russia and Trump associates.
Schumer and Durbin call for former attorneys general to testify
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin are calling for former Attorneys General William Barr and Jeff Sessions to testify on the matter.
“If they refuse, they are subject to being subpoenaed and compelled to testify under oath,” the Democrats said in a statement.
“This issue should not be partisan; under the Constitution, Congress is a co-equal branch of government and must be protected from an overreaching executive, and we expect that our Republican colleagues will join us in getting to the bottom of this serious matter,” Schumer and Durbin said.
White House calls reports ‘appalling’
In the Biden administration’s first on-camera reaction Friday, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield called the reports “appalling.”
“The reports of the behavior of the attorney general under Donald Trump are appalling,” Bedingfield said during an appearance on MSNBC from Cornwall, England.
Bedingfield suggested President Joe Biden has a “very different relationship” with the Justice Department than his predecessor, calling out the Trump administration’s “abuse of power” with the department, and adding that the Biden administration’s Justice Department is “run very, very differently.”
Biden, Bedingfield said, “respects the independence of the Justice Department, and it’s a critically important part of how he governs.”
Swalwell says Trump ‘weaponized’ Justice Department
California Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell, whose data was seized by the Trump administration, said Trump “weaponized” the Justice Department to dig into the private communications.
“This is about everyday Americans who don’t want to see their government weaponize law enforcement against them because of their political beliefs,” Swalwell told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on “Newsroom.”
Asked Friday by Sciutto if he leaked classified information involving investigations, Swalwell replied, “No, never.”
The House is currently not in session and many members are back in their home districts across the country so the House committee briefing is not taking place in person.
The source tells CNN that throughout Thursday evening, members grew concerned that they may not have been aware of if their information had been seized. There are also concerns about what, if any, other methods the Trump administration might have used to look at political adversaries.
This story is breaking and will be updated.