FOIA Update
October 31, 2023

WASHINGTON – Empower Oversight is seeking information regarding the U.S. Department of Justice’s subpoenas of the personal phone and email records of Members of Congress and a dozen or more attorneys for congressional committees, including Empower’s founder, Jason Foster, while they worked on Capitol Hill in 2017. The Justice Department’s targets were from both political parties.

The far-reaching inquiry by the Department raises serious questions about the separation of powers and the constitutional Speech or Debate privilege. In addition, attorney-client communications of those targeted with these subpoenas should have triggered requirements for enhanced procedural protections and approvals. It’s unclear if any proper approvals were received or whether there was an adequate justification for such an overly broad effort to gather records of those overseeing the Justice Department for Congress.

In its Oct. 30 letter seeking the Justice Department records, Empower Oversight also points out:

“If the only reason the Justice Department targeted the communications of these Democrat and Republican congressional attorneys was their access to classified information that was later published by the media, it raises the question of whether the Department also subpoenaed the personal phone and email records of every Executive Branch and Judicial Branch official who also had access to the same information. If not, then the entire exercise looks more like a pretext to gather intelligence on those conducting oversight of the Department rather than a legitimate classified leak inquiry.”

Empower has submitted two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to shed light on possible Justice Department wrongdoing, as well as law enforcement policy, specifically the Justice Department’s use of grand jury subpoenas to obtain personal communications records of congressional staffers investigating the Department.

To see the Oct. 24 FOIA seeking documents regarding the subpoenas to the congressional staff, please click here.

To see the Oct. 30 FOIA requesting documents regarding any subpoenas to the Executive and Judicial branches who had access to the leaked information, please click here.