House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced the Trump administration’s seizing of congressional Democrats’ data on Sunday, calling the tactic “beyond” Nixonian and demanding that Trump-era Justice Department officials testify before Congress.
“What the administration did – the Justice Department, the leadership of the former president – goes even beyond Richard Nixon,” Ms Pelosi told CNN’s State of the Union. “Richard Nixon had an enemies list. This is about undermining the rule of law.”
Recent reports have revealed that in 2017 and 2018, the Justice Department subpoenaed data from Apple on at least two House Democrats, along with some of their aides and family members. The New York Times first reported the subpoenas, and Apple has confirmed that it handed over the data.
On Sunday, Ms Pelosi said former attorneys general Jeff Sessions and William Barr, as well as former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, must have known about the data mining. All three have said they did not.
“For the attorneys general – Barr and Sessions, at least – to say that they didn’t know anything about it, is beyond belief,” the House speaker said. “So we will have to have them come under oath to testify about that.”
However, when CNN’s Dana Bash asked if the speaker would subpoena those officials if they did not come forward voluntarily, Ms Pelosi stopped short.
“Well, let’s hope that they will want to honor the rule of law,” she said.
Apple has said the Justice Department subpoenaed it in February 2018, requesting 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses. The tech giant complied, but says it had no idea the data was on congressional Democrats.
In fact, it was on two high-ranking Democrats in the House Intelligence Committee – representatives Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell. At the time, that committee was investigating Russia’s efforts to help Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
The former president was furious about the probe, and about information from it leaking to the “fake news” media. The data seizures appear to have been part of an unusually aggressive effort to punish those leaks.
On Sunday, Ms Pelosi said such actions are unacceptable.
“This is just out of the question,” she said. “No matter who’s president, whatever party, this cannot be the way it goes.”