(CNN)New revelations suggesting that the Trump administration abused Justice Department powers to target his political enemies underscore just how far the ex-President went to destroy cherished principles of American republican government.
They show that the true extent of assaults on democracy by Donald Trump are still coming to light and are probably even now not fully known.
But this is not just a drama about the alleged misbehavior of a former President. Taken together with the Republican Party’s refusal to hold Trump — who remains the GOP’s dominant figure — to account for the Capitol insurrection and its nationwide efforts to restrict voting, the new allegations also indicate that the freedoms and core values that have underpinned American life for two-and-a-half centuries remain in almost unprecedented peril.
In some of the most chilling exposés yet of Trump’s autocratic tendencies, The New York Times late Thursday unveiled a secret scheme by prosecutors against members of Congress conducting presidential oversight.
In pursuit of leaks of classified information about contacts between Trump associates and Russia, the Justice Department subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, their staff and even their families, including a minor. In a sinister twist to the story, prosecutors also secured a gag order against Apple, preventing it from informing customers their metadata had been seized.
The story sent shockwaves through Washington and lawmakers are now scrambling to understand the scope of what looks like one of the gravest scandals of an former administration steeped in political corruption. If the new drama is at it seems, it would validate fears of those who argued that Trump — or his staff — used the Justice Department as a personal political enforcement mechanism rather than the guarantor of the rule of law. It would also add fuel to arguments of those who warned that a second term for Trump would have further endangered the survival of American democracy,
In this case, prosecutors were not probing the disastrous exposure of a secret weapons system or some secret war plans. According to the Times reports, they were investigating members of Congress, including California Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell, also from California.
“You had the President calling on his opponents to be investigated,” Schiff said on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” on Thursday. “One guardrail after another just smashed by this unethical former President.”
Swalwell, who told CNN Thursday night he had been notified that his data had been seized, told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on Friday morning that he had never leaked classified information and laid out why citizens should care.
“This is about everyday Americans who don’t want to see their government weaponize law enforcement against them because of their political beliefs,” Swalwell said.
Why it matters so much
The reason this latest issue is so important is that it appears to show the executive branch of the government wielding presidential power to target the legislative branch, and the President’s personal political enemies. It would be hard to find a more clear and flagrant abuse of presidential power. This behavior would not only be a
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