Multiple news reports emerged on Sunday stating the Trump Justice Department sought Apple records from former White House counsel Don McGahn, a revelation following McGahn’s recent congressional testimony and disclosures that the DOJ obtained records from members of Congress and journalists.
Apple reportedly “told” McGahn in May that “the Justice Department had subpoenaed information about an account that belonged to him in February 2018, and that the government barred the company from telling him at the time,” according to the New York Times. The outlet said McGahn’s wife received such a notice from Apple too.
The report stated that Apple received the subpoena on Feb. 23, 2018, after it was “issued by a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia” and that “it is not clear what FBI agents were scrutinizing, nor whether Mr. McGahn was their specific focus,” adding that Apple told McGahn “that it complied with the subpoena in a timely fashion but declined to tell him what it provided the government” and said the evidence suggests “that prosecutors went to court several times to prevent Apple from notifying the McGahns earlier.”
CNN followed up with a report stating that “McGahn and his wife received disclosures from Apple last month that their account records were sought by the Justice Department in February 2018” and that “the pursuit was under a nondisclosure order until May, indicating the Justice Department went to a judge multiple times to keep it secret.” The outlet added that “the subpoena for McGahn’s records did not come from” former special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and that “there’s no indication at this time whether the pursuit of McGahn’s records was politically motivated, or what possible case investigators were pursuing.”
The Associated Press also reported on Sunday that Apple “informed … McGahn and his wife that the Justice Department had subpoenaed information about accounts belonging to them in 2018” but that “it’s not clear yet why the Trump administration sought the McGahns’ records.”
Democrats sued McGahn in 2019, claiming to need his testimony on the instances of possible obstruction of justice that Mueller outlined in his report. Then-Attorney General William Barr and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded justice had not been obstructed.
McGahn, who served as counsel from former President Donald Trump’s inauguration through his resignation in October 2018, testified behind closed doors before the House Judiciary Committee on June 4, saying Trump had told him to tell Rosenstein that Mueller had multiple alleged conflicts and could not serve as special counsel. When Mueller’s office asked McGahn about allegations that Trump had pressured him to fire the special counsel, “McGahn responded that he would not refute the press accounts because they were accurate in reporting on the President’s effort to have the Special Counsel removed,” according to Mueller’s report.
An article from the New York Times in late January 2018 contended that Trump “ordered the firing last June” of Mueller but “ultimately backed down” after McGahn “threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive,” according to “four people told of the matter.”
A Washington Post article, published the next day, stated that Trump “sought the firing” of Mueller in June 2017 but “backed off only after” McGahn “threatened to resign over the move,” according to “two people familiar with the episode.” The article contended that “Trump decided to assert that Mueller had unacceptable conflicts of interest and moved to remove him from his position” and “McGahn said he would not remain at the White House if Trump went through with the move, according to a senior administration official.” The article also stated that “McGahn did not respond to requests for comment” despite McGahn now testifying that he was a source for the piece.
McGahn was asked in June if he leaked that story to the media.
“Not to the New York Times, no … I didn’t leak, no. I did talk to the Washington Post. I was a source for that second story over whether or not I — I thought it was worth — because the press shop did not seem to be knowing how to get out that I never told the president directly I was going to resign, and I didn’t think that was fair to the president to have that out there. So I made sure the second story was more accurate … But I was not a source for the first story,” he said.
McGahn was also asked what his reaction was to learning that Trump wanted him to put out a statement denying that he’d asked him to fire Mueller.
“My reaction was I wasn’t going to do that … One, although, on the edges, I can quibble with the New York Times report, in the main, it was — it was in the ballgame of being accurate,” McGahn said, adding, “Two, as a lawyer, I thought it would make matters worse, not better, by all of a sudden going out and trying to pick out a fight with the New York Times … There had been the New York Times piece, and there was a subsequent Washington Post piece that I thought got it a little closer. And to go out with some public statements just made no sense to me as a lawyer to do.”
Mueller’s April 2019 report concluded that “the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion” but that “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
On Thursday, Trump said that “I have also been totally exonerated in Congress by the testimony of former White House lawyer Don McGahn. It came, it went, and it was a big ‘nothingburger.’”
The office for the Department of Justice’s top watchdog, Michael Horowitz, also announced Friday that it is looking into recent revelations that the DOJ sought subpoenas against Democratic members of Congress and reporters as part of the investigation into alleged leaks of classified information to the media.
This follows a recent report by the New York Times that while Jeff Sessions served as attorney general in 2017 and 2018, prosecutors “subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, aides, and family members” during a leak investigation.
The New York Times also revealed that the DOJ under Trump obtained phone records from four of its reporters, making it the third news outlet to announce similar seizures from its journalists, including the Washington Post and CNN earlier this year.