US Attorney General Merrick Garland wants to strengthen policies for obtaining lawmaker data and has vowed swift action regarding recent revelations.
A furor broke out when it was discovered that Trump administration prosecutors subpoenaed Apple in 2017 and 2018 for communications data for House Intelligence Committee Democrats, specifically Chairman Adam Schiff and Congressman Eric Swalwell.
The subpoena covered data for a least a dozen individuals, including aides, family members and one minor, according to CBS News. To make matters worse, Apple was served with a gag order, preventing them from revealing the subpoenas until May 2021.
The fallout has been swift and severe, with multiple lawmakers calling for investigations and explanations behind Trump’s Justice Department actions. Current AG Garland has vowed swift action and has launched an investigation into what took place.
As I stated during my confirmation hearing, political or other improper considerations must play no role in any investigative or prosecutorial decisions. These principles that have long been held as sacrosanct by the DOJ career workforce will be vigorously guarded on my watch, and any failure to live up to them will be met with strict accountability. There are important questions that must be resolved in connection with an effort by the department to obtain records related to Members of Congress and Congressional staff. I have accordingly directed that the matter be referred to the Inspector General and have full confidence that he will conduct a thorough and independent investigation. If at any time as the investigation proceeds action related to the matter in question is warranted, I will not hesitate to move swiftly.
AG Garland has also ordered a review of policies and procedures to ensure any future action is done within the guidelines of the separation-of-powers principle.
In addition, and while that review is pending, I have instructed the Deputy Attorney General, who is already working on surfacing potentially problematic matters deserving high level review, to evaluate and strengthen the department’s existing policies and procedures for obtaining records of the Legislative branch. Consistent with our commitment to the rule of law, we must ensure that full weight is accorded to separation-of-powers concerns moving forward.