DOJ Forced Apple to Reveal Data from Two House Democrats as Part of Trump’s Leaker Crusade

Illustration for article titled DOJ Forced Apple to Reveal Data from Two House Democrats as Part of Trump's Leaker Crusade

Photo: Drew Angerer (Getty Images)

It recently came to light that the Trump-era Department of Justice quietly seized phone records of journalists at the Washington Post, CNN, and the New York Times to suss out their sources as part of the administration’s rabid crackdown on leakers. Well, apparently the witch hunt didn’t stop there: In 2017 and 2018, a grand jury compelled Apple to fork over metadata from the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, according to a Thursday report from the New York Times.

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The subpoena also covered records from at least a dozen people connected to the committee members, including aides, family members, and one minor. Records of Representative Adam Schiff of California, committee chairman and a frequent target of Trump’s playground insults, were among those seized, sources familiar with the matter told the Times.

Apple provided the agency with metadata and account information, but did not share photos, emails, or other content, a person familiar with the inquiry told the Times. But that’s hardly a comfort given the well-demonstrated fact that you can still learn a shit ton about a person from their metadata—where they are, what they’re up to—especially when combined with publicly available info such as their social media posts.

All told, prosecutors found no evidence within the seized data that tied the committee members to leakers. Apple was under a gag order from the DOJ that prohibited the company from publicly discussing the matter, according to the Times. That order expired this year, at which point Apple contacted the committee members, who purportedly did not know they were even being investigated. The Post, Times, and CNN similarly had no clue their reporters had been under federal investigation until the DOJ notified each outlet in recent weeks.

Over the years, administrations from both sides of the aisle have relied on court orders to obtain journalists’ records as part of leak investigations. Even still, current and former congressional officials familiar with the inquiry told the Times that they could not recall an instance in which the records of lawmakers were also seized in these cases.

In the wake of the report, Schiff called for the Inspector General to investigate Trump’s “weaponization of law enforcement” in what he denounced as a “terrible abuse of power.”

“It also makes the Department of Justice just a fully owned subsidiary of the president’s personal legal interests and political interests,” he told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Thursday.

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The DOJ promised to stop secretly obtaining the records of journalists on Saturday after coming under fire from media outlets, lawmakers, and President Joe Biden, who condemned the practice as “simply, simply wrong” in response to the agency’s latest disclosures.

Hoo Boy, the Feds Sure Have a Lot of Dirt on Big Rudy

Correction: Rudy is actually rather short.

Correction: Rudy is actually rather short.
Photo: Rey Del Rio (Getty Images)

Rudy Giuliani, gin-pickled simulacrum of a lawyer and former personal attorney to Donald Trump, is in even deeper shit than was previously known. And the shit he was in was already known to be very deep.

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Last month, federal agents raided Giuliani’s New York home and offices. For prosecutors to execute a search warrant on a lawyer is under most circumstances highly unusual, as judges tend to be wary of potentially compromising attorney-client privilege—and Giuliani’s VIP clients included the former president. The most likely explanation is that Giuliani is under investigation for alleged business ties to Ukrainian officials or businesses that he did not disclose to the Justice Department, putting him in violation of laws requiring registration of foreign agents. At the time, it was known the feds seized cell phones and other electronic devices from Giuliani’s possession. Now, according to CNN, a court filing by an attorney for an indicted former ally of Giuliani’s, Lev Parnas, shows a wide range of evidence has been assembled.

The prevailing theory was that Giuliani is being investigated for his role in a pressure campaign to remove the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Trump fired her in 2019; Yovanovitch’s removal later became a central matter in Trump’s first impeachment, as it emerged the ambassador had been standing in the way of a Trump plan to pressure the Ukrainian government into launching a sham investigation of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Giuliani, who is not a good lawyer, has more or less publicly admitted she was fired to allow him to dig up dirt on Democrats. But at the same time, suspicions have floated he wanted a taste on the side from Ukrainian officials and businesses who wanted Yovanovitch removed for their own reasons—such as shady, now-former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, with whom Giuliani drew up consulting agreements worth hundreds of thousands of dollars he says were never executed.

According the CNN, the new evidence accidentally disclosed by the attorney for Parnas includes messages from email and iCloud accounts belonging to Lutsenko and the former head of the Ukrainian Fiscal Service Roman Nasirov, as well as the cell phone and iPad of Alexander Levin, a pro-Trump Ukrainian businessman. The feds also have “historical and prospective cell site information” relating to Giuliani and Victoria Toensing, another lawyer and Trump ally who similarly has a complicated web of connections to Giuliani and Ukraine. (Toensing, whose offices were raided at the same time as Giuliani’s, has long advocated laws allowing greater surveillance of U.S. citizens.)

Attorneys for Parnas, who is facing campaign finance charges also related to Ukrainian dealings, wrote that Parnas had not been advised as required by the discovery process about evidence against him which had emerged via warrants against Giuliani and others. According to CNN, that filing was formatted in a matter that allowed the redactions to easily be stripped by “copying and pasting them into another document.”

Other remaining and former members of Trump’s inner circle have reportedly been terrified that they could get roped into prosecutors’ ongoing cleanup of various underlings left legally exposed after his debacle of a presidency. The broad scope of the investigation into Giuliani probably isn’t very reassuring. Giuliani apparently had some kind of falling out with Trump over his legal incompetence and embarrassing antics and is no longer representing him; the ex-president also reportedly stiffed Giuliani, refusing to pay his legal bills.

This isn’t the only legal threat Giuliani is facing. After months of spreading conspiracy theories that an election tech manufacturer, Dominion Voting Systems, had helped Joe Biden and the Chinese government rig the 2020 elections, the attorney is attempting to have a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit dismissed.

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Correction: Trump’s firing of Marie Yovanovitch was a point of concern in the former president’s first impeachment, not his second. We regret the error.

Rudy Sued by Dominion Voting Systems for $1.3 Billion

Illustration for article titled Rudy Sued by Dominion Voting Systems for $1.3 Billion

Photo: Drew Angerer (Getty Images)

Despite losing more than 80 lawsuits in the aftermath of the 2020 Presidential election, Republican lawmakers continue to insist that their claims of election fraud haven’t been given proper consideration by the courts. But it seems that conservative claims about rigged voting machines will be getting a thorough legal review as Rudy Giuliani becomes the latest member of the Trump team to be hit with a massive defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems.

Along with Trump attorney Sidney Powell and a coterie of media cronies, Giuliani spent months following the election spreading unfounded claims that Dominion had conspired to rig the election against Donald Trump by programming its voting machines—which were used in more than two dozen states—to flip totals in now-President Joe Biden’s favor. In a new lawsuit filed on Monday, Dominion claims that Giuliani made more than 50 false claims about the company across posts on social media, at court hearings, and during media appearances.

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“Although he was unwilling to make false election fraud claims about Dominion and its voting machines in a court of law because he knew those allegations are false, he and his allies manufactured and disseminated the ‘Big Lie,’ which foreseeably went viral and deceived millions of people into believing that Dominion had stolen their votes and fixed the election,” the company wrote in the filing. “Notably, not a single one of the three complaints signed and filed by Giuliani and other attorneys for the Trump Campaign in the Pennsylvania action contained any allegations about Dominion.”

Despite Giuliani’s reluctance to accuse Dominion of wrongdoing in a court of law, the former New York City mayor has continued to spout evidenceless claims in the media that Dominion is really a Venezuelan company called Smartmatic that has close ties to the investor George Soros. In Giuliani’s telling, this shadowy cabal has rigged elections in other countries and now they’ve done it here. Dominion points to Giuliani and Trump’s decision not to sign onto “sham” litigation that did name the company filed by Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood in November. Dominion sued Powell for defamation earlier this month and is seeking $1.3 billion in damages.

Giuliani’s lies, Dominion says, were also a motivating factor in the Capitol Hill riots on January 6. The company says that Giuliani mentioned issues with its voting machines in remarks to the crowd in Washington, D.C., just before Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an effort to derail the certification of votes. Dominion lays the blame for these people’s action at the feet of Trump’s attorney, saying that the people in that crowd were “deceived by Giuliani and his allies into thinking that they were not criminals—but patriots ‘Defend[ing] the Republic’ from Dominion and its co-conspirators, they then bragged about their involvement in the crime on social media.”

Dominion says that Giuliani profited from his lies in numerous ways including through his podcast “where he exploited election falsehoods to market gold coins, supplements, cigars and protection from ‘cyberthieves.’” The suit also points to reports that Giuliani asked Trump for $20,000 a day for legal counsel. Giuliani recently admitted that one of his “associates” did send an email asking for the fee but he was unaware of it at the time and he “never had a single expectation of being paid a penny.” Now that Dominion is asking the court to order Guilliani to pay $1.3 billion in damages, that $20,000 figure must be looking like a bargain.

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