Reuters – Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Monday the U.S. Justice Department is considering changing its policies for obtaining records from the legislative branch after revelations that former President Donald Trump’s administration had secretly gotten the communications records of some members of Congress.
Garland, the top U.S. law enforcement official, said in a statement he has instructed Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco “to evaluate and strengthen the department’s existing policies and procedures for obtaining records of the Legislative branch.”
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, both Democrats, on Sunday vowed to investigate the “rogue” actions of the Justice Department under Trump including its move to seize the communications records of Democratic lawmakers.
Those reviews will run parallel with an investigation by the department’s own internal watchdog – Inspector General Michael Horowitz – into its moves during the Trump administration to subpoena phone records of Democratic House members Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell as part of a probe into leaks of classified information. Schiff and Swalwell both were critics of Trump.
Horowitz’s office said on Friday it was launching a review of the department’s use of subpoenas to obtain the communications records of lawmakers and journalists, including whether “improper considerations” drove those decisions.
Garland in his statement said that if action related to Horowitz’s investigation “is warranted, I will not hesitate to move swiftly.”
The Justice Department under former attorneys general William Barr and Jeff Sessions was regularly accused of putting Trump’s personal and political interests ahead of the law.
Democrats on Friday demanded that Sessions and Barr testify about the subpoenas. White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield on Friday criticized the Trump administration’s actions as “appalling.”
The New York Times on Thursday reported that the Trump-era Justice Department subpoenaed Apple Inc for data on Schiff and Swalwell. Apple also told Donald McGahn, who served as White House counsel under Trump, that the Justice Department had subpoenaed information about him in early 2018 and barred the company from notifying him of the request, the Times reported on Sunday.
The head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division is expected to leave his post by the end of next week, the Times reported on Monday. The departure of John Demers, a holdover from Trump’s administration, had been arranged months ago, the Times reported.
(Reporting by Lisa Lambert and Jan Wolfe; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Will Dunham)