The US Department of Justice will investigate attempts by officials in the administration of former President Donald Trump to obtain phone records of prominent figures from the Democratic Party.
The internal investigation follows the spread of reports of instructions issued by the ministry to Apple to disclose data that helps track those who have been leaking information.
Members of the House Intelligence Committee said they had been told that recordings of their phone calls had been turned over.
A White House official described what happened as “horrific.”
Lawmakers under Attorney General Jeff Sessions had instructed Apple to turn over data for 2017 and early 2018, according to the New York Times.
Reports indicate that they were searching for the source of news reports about ties between Russia and associates of former President Donald Trump, an issue that resulted in congressional investigations, including that of the House Intelligence Committee.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said his office has begun an investigation into the use of subpoenas to obtain telephone recordings of members of Congress. He added that the investigation may be extended if other cases arise.
His announcement came after Democratic Sheik Schumer Chairman Chuck Schumer and Judicial Committee Chairman Dick Durbin said that Sachs and William Barr, who was the attorney general under President Trump, should testify or face subpoenas.
In an interview with Politico, Barr said that when he was in charge of the department, he did not know of any congressman recordings requested in a leak case. The New York Times reported that the summons took place before Barr’s reign.
Two members of Congress, Rep. Adam Schiff and committee member, Eric Swalwell, were identified as being targeted.
Schiff said the investigations are only the beginning, and called for a detailed and in-depth look at abuses targeting Congress and the press by the Trump Department of Justice.
Although the department conducts routine investigations into the leaked information, the participation of members of Congress in such an investigation is rare, says BBC North America correspondent David Wells.
The department also obtained an order preventing Apple from telling the people concerned, according to the newspaper. The order expired this year and Apple notified those concerned last month.
Several media outlets revealed last month that officials in the Ministry of Justice had secretly obtained recordings of phone calls of some of their journalists in 2017.
The ministry later said it would stop requesting journalists’ statements during the investigation into the leaks.