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Did Justice Monitor Congress’ Phone Calls With AP?

Nunes said he believes the Obama administration seized AP phone records to track GOP House members. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Nunes said he believes the Obama administration seized AP phone records to track GOP House members. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Some Republicans are concerned that the Justice Department was essentially able to spy on Congress through its seizure of Associated Press phone records.

Expanding on a Wednesday interview with conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, Rep. Devin Nunes told me Thursday morning that there is no other explanation in light of the DOJ’s acknowledgment that, as part of its inquiry into national security leaks, it subpoenaed AP phone records from the House press gallery. That’s a prime spot from which reporters frequently initiate and receive telephone calls from members of Congress and their staff.

The California Republican said that the AP phone records scandal that has focused on First Amendment infringement actually runs deeper, and should examine what he is convinced includes an illegal violation of the separation of powers by President Barack Obama’s administration.

“As I pointed out to Hugh Hewitt, there’s no question that Justice knows what members of Congress the AP was talking to during the two-month time period,” Nunes told CQ Roll Call.

Nunes serves on the House Intelligence Committee and, as such, said he has some familiarity with the leak the Department of Justice is investigating, a leak he said many committee members are genuinely concerned about. But the congressman disputed Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s assertion from Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing that it rose to the level of a national security threat that required Justice to seize the AP phone records in question.

Nunes also questioned why only the House press gallery AP phone records were subpoenaed, and not those from the Senate press gallery, the White House press room or other press galleries. The Californian’s insinuation, although he did not explicitly say this, is that it’s possible the DOJ was interested in figuring out which House Republicans and GOP staffers AP reporters were talking to, and what they were saying.

Holder, Nunes said, “obviously didn’t see [the movie] “Zero Dark Thirty” that his administration signed off on, and leaked all kinds of things, to Hollywood.” He added, of the leak that prompted the seizure of AP phone records, “My assumption is this leak came from the White House; they ought to be spying on themselves.”

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