The House Judiciary Committee has launched an inquiry into the Justice Department’s attempt to surveil members of Congress through their private digital communications.
Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican and the panel chairman, sent letters Tuesday to the chief executive officers of Alphabet, Apple, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon and to Attorney General Merrick Garland announcing the investigation and demanding documents and materials related to the matter.
On Oct. 19, Google notified the former chief investigative counsel to Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, that the Justice Department had subpoenaed Google in 2017.
The request for the staffer’s personal phone records and emails came while the Senate Judiciary Committee, then chaired by Mr. Grassley, was investigating the Department’s handling of the Christopher Steele dossier.
That now-debunked 2016 memo, paid for by Democratic political campaigns, contained salacious and unverified allegations tying former President Donald Trump to Russia.
In that same period, a wiretapped phone call between incoming Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak first surfaced, which was considered a leak of classified information.
The Senate Judiciary Committee called for answers from the Justice Department about the Flynn investigation and the leak.
The newsfeedworld reached out to the Justice Department but did not immediately hear back.
“Google’s notification to this staffer revealed the Justice Department likely also sought the personal records and communications of other congressional staffers — both Republicans and Democrats — who engaged in oversight of the Department during the same period,” Mr. Jordan wrote.
The Ohio Republican stated that the Justice Department’s efforts to pursue the private communications of congressional staffers, some of whom were conducting oversight of the department, was “unacceptable” and violates “separation of powers principles as well.”
Mr. Garland, the CEOs of Alphabet, Apple, T-Mobile, and Verizon, have a deadline of Nov. 14 to send documents, communications, and materials requested by the House Judiciary Committee.
Reports surfaced last week that several current and former congressional staffers discovered the Justice Department subpoenaed their personal phone and email records in 2017, likely under as part of a leak probe.
The targets included Republican and Democratic House and Senate staffers.
Google alerted Jason Foster, Mr. Grassley’s former chief investigative counsel on the Judiciary Committee, that the DOJ wanted and received his personal records.
In a later Freedom of Information Act request to the DOJ, Mr. Foster’s nonprofit group, Empower Oversight, describes the Justice Department’s search range.
“For each of the listed telephone and email accounts, the subpoena compelled Google to release customer or subscriber information, as well as subscribers’ names, addresses, local and long-distance telephone connection records, text message logs, records of session times and durations, length of service and types of service utilized for the period from Dec. 1, 2016 to May 1, 2017,” the letter says, which was written by Empower Oversight President Tristan Leavitt.
The letter also mentions that other attorneys have publicly referenced receiving similar notices from the DOJ, including Kash Patel, a former staffer with the House intelligence committee.