Trump Justice Department subpoenaed info from White House counsel Don McGahn’s Apple account: report

WASHINGTON — Former White House counsel Don McGahn was told by Apple last month that the Justice Department subpoenaed information about an account he owned in February 2018, two sources familiar with the matter told the New York Times.

At the time, Apple was barred by authorities from telling McGahn that it had sought this information. It is unclear what the DOJ was investigating or if McGahn was the primary target of the inquiry, the Times reported.

The revelation is the latest in a series of reports finding the Trump-era Justice Department monitored and pursued private information on journalists and Democratic lawmakers.

It comes just days after the Justice Department’s independent watchdog announced it was launching a broad investigation into whether the Trump administration and its two attorneys general improperly seized phone records of House Democratic lawmakers, their staff and journalists as part of an aggressive 2018 leak investigation.

On Friday, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz confirmed he would launch an investigation, adding his watchdog agency would look beyond subpoenas to “other legal authorities (used) to obtain communication records … in connection with recent investigations of alleged unauthorized disclosures of information to the media by government officials.”

According to the Times, Apple told McGahn it cooperated with the subpoena and did not tell him what information the firm provided to the government. 

What was McGahn’s role?

As White House counsel, McGahn was a key liaison between the Justice Department and the Trump administration. Before serving as the White House’s top lawyer, McGahn was the lawyer for the Trump campaign.

In his role, McGahn papered over multiple legal scandals for former President Donald Trump’s team while helping pursue the administration’s conservative agenda. When House Democrats subpoenaed McGahn as part of their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, McGahn defied the panel and skipped the hearing.

On June 4, McGahn gave a closed-door testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, under an agreement that avoided a constitutional showdown over the investigation of former President Donald Trump.

Outrage over subpoena revelations

News of the Trump-era Justice Department’s various expansive investigations into political opponents and independent media stirred outrage in Washington.

On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said John Demers, a Trump-appointed national security official in the Justice Department who remains in his post, will either willingly testify or be subpoenaed about the department’s secret seizure of records of Democrats and reporters.

The revelations also present a challenge to President Joe Biden, who promised to strengthen federal agencies like the Justice Department that were battered during the Trump years while also reasserting their independence.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said the administration will not subpoena reporters because it is “not consistent with the president’s policy direction to the department,” though the White House has not explained how it will guarantee such behavior ends without greater involvement from the White House.

Follow Matthew Brown online @mrbrownsir.

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