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Justice Department to bolster rules on obtaining records on lawmakers

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The Justice Department said it is revising polices on obtaining records from lawmakers after the agency under the Trump Administration subpoenaed Apple for data on two members of Congress.

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday said that he is directing deputy attorney general Lisa Monaco to "to evaluate and strengthen the department's existing policies and procedures for obtaining records of the legislative branch," The Wall Street Journal has reported.

Earlier in June, reports indicated that the Justice Department had served Apple with subpoenas for phone records belonging to two Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee, as well as their families and aides. Apple was forced to hand over phone metadata and "other account information."

The Justice Department also subjected Apple to a gag order, which meant that the company couldn't alert the lawmakers that they were under investigation until the orders expired in May 2021.

In the wake of those reports, Monaco called for an investigation into the subpoenas. Top Democrats in the Senate also demanded that Donald Trump's attorneys general, Jeff Sessions and William Barr, testify under oath about the subpoenas.

"There are important questions that must be resolved in connection with an effort by the department to obtain records related to members of Congress and congressional staff. Consistent with our commitment to the rule of law, we must ensure that full weight is accorded to separation-of-powers concerns moving forward," Garland said.

On Sunday, another report indicated that subpoenas applied against Apple for account data also extended to Donald F. McGahn II, the former White House counsel to Donald Trump.

At the time of the subpoenas, the Justice Department was investigating potential leaks of classified informations after media reports indicated that certain Trump associates were in contact with Russia.

While investigations of leaks aren't uncommon, it is unusual for the Justice Department to secret seize data on members of Congress or the new media. In addition to the lawmakers, Trump's Justice Department also obtained phone recors from reporters at The Washington Post, The New York Times, and CNN.

Garland on Monday said the Justice Department would no longer seek records of reporters' contacts when investigating leaks of sensitive information.

"Political or other improper considerations must play no role in any investigative or prosecutorial decisions. These principles that have long been held as sacrosanct by the DOJ career workforce will be vigorously guarded on my watch, and any failure to live up to them will be met with strict accountability," said Garland in a statement.

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