The Justice Department’s internal watchdog announced on Friday that it will investigate the actions of former attorneys general Jeff Sessions and William Barr for the Trump-era seizure of phone and email records of Democratic lawmakers and journalists.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco has referred the matter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, who announced Friday afternoon that his office is initiating a review of the matter.
The move comes a day after The New York Times revealed that California Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell were investigated by twice-impeached former president Donald Trump’s DOJ in 2018 and compelled Apple to turn over communication metadata for them, their staffs and family members. The investigation was directed in secret by Sessions and Barr and is the most blatant indication yet that Trump considered the Justice Department to be working personally for him.
“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. It is increasingly apparent that those demands did not fall on deaf ears,” Schiff said in a statement Thursday. “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.”
Separately on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois demanded that Sessions and Barr testify under oath about the secret subpoenas of the two House Democrats. In a statement they called the former AG’s actions “a gross abuse of power and an assault on the separation of powers.” They also said that if the two do not voluntarily testify they will be subpoenaed to appear before Durbin’s committee.
The New York Times, CNN and The Washington Post all previously disclosed they were notified recently by the DOJ that records of reporters at their outlets were obtained. At the time the records were sought, the House Intelligence Committee was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. The newspaper reported that the records were sought as part of an investigation into leaks of classified information.