Barr distances himself from subpoenas from Trump-era Democratic lawmakers

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Donald Trump

The Justice Department’s internal guard announced Friday that it would initiate a review of the seizures of records, and Democratic leaders are ceasing their own investigations. According to the Times, the leak investigation swept the metadata of the committee’s top Democrat, California MP Adam Schiff, who has now become its chair, and California MP Eric Swalwell, another prominent Trump critic who sits on the panel.

Barr said that while he was attorney general, he “did not know that a congressman’s files were being searched in a leak case”. He added that Trump never encouraged him to focus on Democratic lawmakers, who were reportedly the target of the former president’s push to expose leaks of classified information.

Trump “was not in any of the cases aware of who we were investigating,” said Barr. “I never discussed the leak cases with Trump. He didn’t really ask me for details.”

The Inspector General of the Ministry of Justice, Michael Horowitz, opens a separate investigation. The department said Friday that Horowitz’s review would focus on the “DOJ’s use of subpoenas and other judicial authorities” to obtain records of lawmakers, journalists and others linked to an ongoing investigation into unauthorized leaks.

In a statement Friday, Schiff applauded the Attorney General for requesting an Inspector General’s investigation, but said that “will not obviate the need for other forms of oversight and accountability, including public oversight by Congress, and.” the department must work together in an effort. “

Democratic Congressional leaders are already promising to investigate the Trump Department of Justice’s efforts to confiscate the communications records. And Barr’s comments are unlikely to suppress their criticism of his leadership in the department.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Justice Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Called on Barr and his Attorney General predecessor, former Senator Jeff Sessions, to appear before the Justice Committee on Friday to answer questions about the secret efforts a subpoena to answer Democrats’ communication metadata. The Trump-era leak hunt revelations have raised new questions about the former president’s use of his executive powers to monitor members of Congress who are investigating him.

“This appalling politicization of the Justice Department by Donald Trump and his flatterers must be investigated immediately by both the DOJ Inspector General and Congress,” said Schumer and Durbin, the top two Democrats in the House of Lords, in a joint statement, adding that the Justice Committee “Will vigorously investigate this abuse of power”.

While the Democrats control the body, a subpoena would require the support of at least one GOP member, as the committee is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, the committee’s chief Republican, announced Friday that he is opposed to a Congressional investigation.

“Investigations against members of Congress and staff are nothing new, especially when it comes to classified leaks,” Grassley said in a statement. “The Justice Department has specific procedures for such sensitive investigations, and the Inspector General is already working to determine if they have been followed.”

Barr said he assigned Osmar Benvenuto to the DOJ’s National Security Division in February 2020 to try to revive the leak investigation after Craig Carpenito, the US attorney for New Jersey recommended him to Barr as a “very skilled attorney” [who] was able to quickly clarify which of these cases requires further investigation and what could be done to resolve them. “

“I was criticized by cabinet and intelligence officials for doing nothing on these leaks, so I wanted to make sure they were being followed,” Barr said.

When the subpoenas allegedly went out, Rod Rosenstein was the assistant attorney general. John Demers became head of the DOJ’s National Security Division dealing with leak probes in February 2018. Rosenstein has since left the department to settle in a private practice; Demers still heads the National Security Division.

Mary McCord, a professional attorney, headed the National Security Division prior to Senate approval from Demers.

“All I can say is that any investigation involving an elected official would be considered a sensitive matter requiring high-level approval by the department,” she told POLITICO when asking for comment was asked.

Both Schiff and Swalwell have been some of Trump’s most vocal critics, and the former president followed them frequently on Twitter. According to the Times, Trump’s Justice Department searched communications records from Intelligence Committee officials and family members, including a minor.

Trump himself tweeted repeatedly that he believed Schiff was breaking the law by leaking classified material. The president’s messages would have posed major challenges to any prosecutor trying to bring charges against the legislature.

“Congressman Adam Schiff, who knowingly and illegally lied and leaked for two years, should be forced to resign from Congress!” He tweeted on March 28, 2019. Twitter has since removed Trump’s account and his tweets are archived separately.

But an unlikely pro-Trump ally came on Friday to defend the Democrats in the House of Representatives when MP Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) – who was himself examined in a sex trafficking investigation by federal prosecutors – replied that “the DOJ is one has a very nasty tendency, targeting its critics, Republicans and Democrats. “

“The ship story reminded me of the DOJ’s threats to initiate criminal proceedings against staff members who expose their misdeeds,” Gaetz said in a statement. “I’m against all of that, no matter how much I personally don’t like Schiff.”

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