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The White House counsel to former President Donald Trump was one of the targets of Justice Department subpoenas applied against Apple for account data, according to a report, with the number of high-profile people affected by an investigation continuing to grow.
On Friday, it was revealed that the U.S. Justice Department had subpoenaed Apple for data relating to at least two House Democrats, their aides, and families. On Sunday, it seems the investigation also requested data relating to Trump White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II.
Apple reportedly informed McGahn and his wife in May that the Justice Department had subpoenaed information about accounts they controlled in February 2018, according to unidentified people familiar with the matter speaking to the New York Times.
It appears that the U.S. government barred Apple from advising of the subpoenas to the two people. Apple also informed the McGahns that it had complied with the subpoenas, but didn't state what information was provided to the government.
The pattern and timing of the subpoenas echo Friday's revelations of similar subpoenas against at least two House Democrats, Eric Swalwell and Adam B. Schiff. A similar gag order was put in place, preventing Apple from revealing the requests until May 2021.
At around the time of the subpoenas, the Justice Department was investigating leaks of classified information, though the inclusion of White House counsel as a person of interest for an investigation may have been a routine addition. It is believed investigators could have compiled a long list of phone numbers and email addresses who were in contact with a subject, to try and identify them.
It is thought that this manner of request may have allowed the data to slip under Apple's radar and be compiled with without any pushback. Apple says it regularly fights government requests for consumer data, and informs impacted users as soon as it is allowed to.
It is thought that the subpoena may have been requested of McGahn over an investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 U.S. election campaign. Also at the time, President Trump was apparently angry with McGhan over an alleged leak related to a report claiming Trump had ordered McGahn to have the Justice Department remove Robert Mueller from the investigation, an order McGahn refused to comply with.
On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN that the subpoenas of tech companies for account data of lawmakers was a step that "goes even beyond Richard Nixon." According to Pelosi, "Richard Nixon had an enemies list. This is about undermining the rule of law."
Pelosi said a Justice Department internal probe into the affair is "not a substitute for what we must do in the Congress," adding that a review of the situation would be conducted in the House.
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