Apple data reportedly seized by Trump officials in leak probe


Prosecutors were looking for the source of media reports about contacts between Trump aides and Russia, The New York Times reports.

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

As The New York Times reports, Trump administration officials summoned Apple for data on at least a dozen people associated with the House Intelligence Committee, in order to root out the source of the leaked classified information. The targets included at least two Democrats, aides and family members of the House Intelligence Committee — one of whom was a minor.

The Times reported that prosecutors, who seized the records in 2017 and early 2018, were exploring the source of media leaks about contacts between Trump allies and Russia. California Representative Adam B. Schiff, then the panel’s top Democrat, was one of the targeted members of Congress, sources told the newspaper.

Apple provided metadata and account information, but not photos, emails or other content, a person familiar with the inquiry told the Times. Ultimately, the data submitted to the summons did not link the committee to the leak, the newspaper reported.

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

A source told the Times that as was the case with news organizations, the Justice Department obtained a false order that prevented Apple from disclosing the summons. The newspaper reported that lawmakers learned of the investigation from Apple last month, after the gag order had expired.

Schiff called the investigation “baseless” and said it showed how Trump used the system to target political enemies.

“This baseless investigation, while now closed, is another example of Trump’s corrupt weaponization of justice.” Schiff tweeted saying Thursday evening.

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

Apple typically receives thousands of requests for personal data each year from governments and private parties in litigation around the world. In April, the company reported that Requests received in 2020 targeted 171,368 devices, a decline of 12% 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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