Top Senate Republicans and Democrats clashed on Monday over how, and whether, to investigate the Department of Justice’s subpoenas of lawmakers’ Apple data under former President Donald Trump, with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell alleging a “politically motivated” probe as Democrats make a sweeping document request.
McConnell, in a floor speech, accused Democrats of giving into “the urge to pick at the scab of politically motivated investigations” by threatening to subpoena former Attorneys General Bill Barr and Jeff Sessions to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
McConnell said Barr – who, like Sessions, has denied knowledge of the subpoenas – “served our nation with honor and with integrity,” claiming the DOJ is “empowered to investigate criminal conduct of members of Congress and their staff.”
“How would he know that?” Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin shot back, asking if McConnell “has information that they complied with DOJ guidelines? Where did he get it,” and adding, “I think he’s making it up.”
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday requesting documents and a briefing on the subpoenas, as well as answers to several questions about their scope, context and justification.
But Durbin said he “can’t disagree” that McConnell’s opposition is likely to quash any effort to subpoena Barr and Sessions, which needs to be bipartisan to pass, meaning any testimony will likely happen in the House.
The Department of Justice’s inspector general is looking into the subpoenas of the Apple metadata of Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, as well as their staffers and family members, which were authorized for in 2018 as part of investigations into leaks of classified information.
“We expect our Republican colleagues to join us in getting to the bottom of this very, very serious matter,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a floor speech ahead of McConnell’s, adding that the issue “should not be partisan” because the legislative branch “must be protected from an overreaching executive.”
The House may conduct its own probes into the matter. House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, who was among the lawmakers whose data was subpoenaed, said he is “pleased” with the internal DOJ probe but that it is “important for Congress to do its own oversight.”