The Justice Department reportedly used grand jury subpoenas to secretly snoop on emails and cellphone data belonging to House Republican staffers as GOP lawmakers gathered evidence indicating that the FBI’s investigation of collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia was flawed.
The subpoenas show that the DOJ demanded that Google turn over records belonging to at least two top House Intelligence Committee staffers in November 2017, as the panel’s former Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) investigated the FBI’s intrusion into Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, Just the News reported on Monday. By Dec. 5, 2017, Google had responded to the subpoena requests, delivering the relevant material to the DOJ.
The subpoenas were issued during a time when Nunes struggled to compel the FBI and DOJ to turn over documents to the committee as he sought to prove the Trump-Russia collusion investigation was driven by a dossier funded by Hillary Clinton.
Existence of the government’s subpoenas were revealed in recent days as Google followed its policy of informing customers five years later that their records were pulled by law enforcement.
Kash Patel, who served as senior counsel on the House Intel Committee, said on Monday that he is one of the staffers who the DOJ sought to investigate, and he called the intrusion a “political vendetta.”
“The two-tier system of justice was alive in 2017 – this time spying on Capitol Hill staffers. The DOJ and FBI subpoenaed my personal records while I was Chief Counsel uncovering their corruption in Russia gate, and they used a Grand Jury to obtain it. Every member of Congress and every Capitol Hill staffer should be demanding investigations. Using law enforcement to execute political vendettas is a destruction of our Constitution, and it was brought to you by those charged with its ultimate protection – Rosenstein and Wray,” Patel said in a statement.
The subpoenas asked Google for records such as “all customer and subscriber account information,” “addresses (including mailing addresses, residential addresses, business addresses, and e-mail addresses,” user names, “screen names,” “local and long distance telephone connection records” and the “means and source of payment for such service (including any credit card or bank account number) and billing records,” according to Just the News.
The news outlet reports that the subpoenas didn’t specify whether the FBI or another component of the DOJ was leading the investigation into Patel and the other staffers.
The subpoenas were issued as Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigated Russian collusion in the 2016 election, the DOJ inspector general probed the FBI for misconduct related to the Russia case, and several agencies were investigating leaks, including one that identified former Donald Trump campaign adviser Carter Page as the target of a Russian espionage operation in New York, which was traced to a former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer.
The case is reminiscent of a 2009 incident in which CIA employees searched computers belonging to Senate staffers as they gathered information related to a Senate investigation into the CIA’s interrogation techniques.