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Trump Administration subpoenaed Apple for lawmakers' data

Credit: WikiMedia

The U.S. Justice Department under former President Donald Trump subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of at least two House Democrats, as well as their aides and families.

Apple was subpoenaed by prosecutors under Jeff Sessions during the early days of the Trump Administration. At the time, the Justice Department was investigating leaks of classified information, The New York Times reported Thursday.

The records of at least a dozen people tied to the House Intelligence Committee were seized in 2017 and early 2018. They included the account data of Rep. Adam B. Schiff, then the top Democrat on the panel. One of the people included in the list was a minor.

Apple was forced to hand over metadata and "other account information." The New York Times reports that Apple did not give photos, emails, or other content to the Justice Department.

Trump's Justice Department also subjected Apple to a gag order, which expired in 2021. Because of it, Apple could not inform the lawmakers, aides, and families that they were being investigated until May 2021.

The subpoenas remained secret until the Biden Administration revealed them to press outlets in recent weeks.

According to The New York Times, the Justice Department was seeking the sources behind media reports that certain Trump associates were in contact with Russia. Under Sessions, the department also secured subpoenas for records belonging to reporters — an avenue that the DoJ only allows after all other means of inquiry are exhausted.

While Apple won't unlock hardware products for law enforcement, it can and does provide user data when served with a subpoena. That user data can include a lot of information stored in iCloud, though many types of data are encrypted.

Apple details government requests for data in a biannual transparency report. The latest report indicated that Apple received 28,276 device requests covering 171,368 devices in the first half of 2020.

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