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Apple data allegedly seized by Trump officials in leak investigation

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Apple data allegedly seized by Trump officials in leak investigation

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks with President Donald Trump during a meeting at the White House in March 2019.

Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Trump administration officials cited Apple for data of at least a dozen people connected to the House Intelligence Committee in an attempt to root out the source of classified information leaks, The New York Times reported. The targets included at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, aides and family members, one of whom was a minor.

Prosecutors, who seized the records in 2017 and early 2018, were searching for the source of media leaks about contacts between Trump associates and Russia, The Times reported. Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, then the top Democrat on the panel, was one of the members of Congress targeted, the sources told the newspaper.

Apple provided metadata and account information, but no photos, emails or other content, a person familiar with the investigation told the Times. Ultimately, the cited data did not link the committee to the leaks, the newspaper reported.

The report follows recent revelations that the administration of former President Donald Trump had secretly obtained phone and email records from various journalists, including reporters from CNN and the Washington Post. President Joe Biden said last month that he had directed the Justice Department to end the practice of confiscating journalists’ phone or email records.

As with news organizations, the Justice Department obtained a gag order preventing Apple from releasing the subpoenas, a source told the Times. Lawmakers only learned of the sample last month from Apple, after the gag order expired, the newspaper reported.

Schiff called the investigation “unfounded” and said it highlighted how Trump used the system to attack political enemies.

“This baseless investigation, although now closed, is yet another example of Trump’s corruption of justice,” Schiff said in a tweet Thursday afternoon.

Representative Eric Swalwell of California, another prominent Intelligence Committee Democrat, told CNN on Thursday night he was notified that his data was seized as part of the investigation. Representatives for Swalwell, a longtime critic of Trump, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apple typically receives thousands of requests each year for individual data from governments and private parties in litigation around the world. In April, the company reported that the requests it received in 2020 had targeted 171,368 devices, a 12% drop from the same time in 2019. Apple provided the requested information 80% of the time.

Representatives for Apple and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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