Former Trump White House counsel Don McGahn and his wife received disclosures from Apple last month that their account records were sought by the Justice Department in February 2018, while McGahn was still the top lawyer representing the presidency, according to a person familiar.
The New York Times first reported McGahn’s situation on Sunday.
The pursuit was under a nondisclosure order until May, indicating the Justice Department went to a judge multiple times to keep it secret throughout former President Donald Trump’s years in office.
It is extraordinary to subpoena a White House counsel’s records.
The Justice Department appears to have accessed McGahn and his wife’s information the same month the department swept up Apple’s data related to dozens of phone numbers and email accounts connected to the House Intelligence Committee, including for two of its Democratic members.
The DOJ’s move also happened a few weeks after Trump became unhappy with McGahn as he tried to pressure McGahn to cover up his request to fire then-special counsel Robert Mueller, a pivotal move of Trump’s that added fuel to Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice.
The subpoena for McGahn’s records did not come from Mueller’s team of investigators, the source added.
There’s no indication at this time whether the pursuit of McGahn’s records was politically motivated, or what possible case investigators were pursuing.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were not aware of this request for information related to McGahn and his wife, according to another source familiar.
Thursday’s revelations about prosecutors seeking records for members of the House Intelligence Committee have led top congressional Democrats to call on former Attorneys General Sessions and William Barr to testify on the matter.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Sunday demanded Senate Republicans join Democrats to subpoena Barr and Sessions, as well as John Demers, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s national security division. Key Republicans have mostly issued statements focusing on the potential leaks DOJ was investigating rather than the methods, and withheld judgment on whether the department was following the rules.
“This is not just some kind of Washington insider thing,” Schumer said at a Sunday news conference in New York City. “It’s about people’s phone records being subpoenaed without them even knowing about it, and who knows who would be next. Everyday Americans are appalled by the notion that any President via their political appointees could manipulate the democratic system, and tap into personal phone data — that’s not American. What has happened here are fingerprints of a dictatorship, not a democracy.”
Sessions — the attorney general at the time of the Apple subpoena — was recused from all matters related to the Russia probe so a related leak investigation would have fallen under Rosenstein, CNN has reported.
Rosenstein has told people in recent days he was not aware of the subpoena that targeted the data of Democratic members of Congress while he was deputy attorney general, a source familiar with Rosenstein told CNN on Saturday.
Barr, who took office a year after the subpoena was issued, also said Friday he does not recall discussing a probe of lawmakers.
The Justice Department’s inspector general is launching an investigation into the department’s handling of the leak investigation.
This story has been updated with additional developments.