The United States Department of Justice illegally surveilled Kash Patel and Jason Foster as the top GOP congressional lawyers investigated “Crossfire Hurricane,” the department’s codename for the Russian collusion probe.
New documents confirm the DoJ spied on Foster and Patel’s phone calls and emails in 2017 during an allegedly illegal “fishing expedition.”
Tejpal Chawla, a federal prosecutor and donor to Democrat campaigns, was one of the key culprits in the surveillance of the Republican attorneys.
In 2017, Congressional staffers launched an investigation into the US Attorney’s office over its “Crossfire Hurricane” probe, which alleged Trump colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 presidential election.
Chawla, an Assistant US Attorney in the Washington DC US Attorney’s office, subsequently subpoenaed phone records of the lawyers working for the Senate and House.
A court seal concealing the seven-year-old subpoenas of the congressional lawyers recently expired and the targets of the Justice Department’s illegal surveillance scandal were notified by big tech firms they had been spied on.
Last week, Foster, former chief investigative counsel to then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley, received an email from Google revealing his phone calls had been surveilled as he served as a congressional watchdog.
The DoJ had obtained records for his Googe Voice telephone number between Dec. 1, 2016 and May 1, 2017, according to the 2017 subpoena Foster received from Google.
The department also spied on the phone records of Foster’s wife and potentially surveilled the phone he used for Senate business.
Foster, who now runs the whistleblower organization Empower Oversight, filed a Freedom of Information request demanding the US Attorney’s Office turn over records surrounding its surveillance of congressional staff.
“This was just a fishing expedition to gather intel on their overseers in Congress,” Foster told Daily Mail. “We were their primary oversight committee And we were asking the very pointed and difficult questions that they didn’t want to answer.”
Several other congressional staffers and attorneys were spied on by the DoJ while investigating Crossfire Hurricane, Foster warns.
“You have to ask, how far does this go?” he continued. ‘We’re only just finding out about the Senate.
“We knew earlier about House Intel. Who else have they been monitoring? And for how long?”
The Daily Mail obtained a copy of the surveillance subpoena and identified Chawla’s signature on the largely redacted document.
“Enough was visible for DailyMail.com to match it Chawla’s signature on other court documents,” the publication notes.
“Chawla was already linked to the DoJ’s hunt for a leaker, as he was one of the prosecutors who charged another Senate staffer with lying to the FBI about his communications with journalists,” Daily Mail reports. “Federal Election Commission records show Chawla has given a total $2,851 to political campaigns since 1999, including Democrat PAC ActBlue, Obama’s presidential campaign, and Democrat senators and House members.”
In Dec. 2022 Patel, former House Intelligence Committee chief investigative counsel, was informed by Google the Justice Department secretly monitored his private call logs during his probe of the department as early as November 2017.
On Sept. 14, Patel filed a federal lawsuit against the DOJ for illegally spying.
“DOJ sought the subpoena for Mr. Patel’s private accounts without a legitimate basis in a chilling attempt to surveil the person leading the Legislative Branch’s investigation into the Department of Justice’s conduct during the Crossfire Hurricane investigation,” the lawsuit states.
“This was a blatant abuse and violation of the separation of powers by DOJ, a violation of Mr. Patel’s constitutional rights, and an attempt to find a way to silence an investigation into DOJ’s questionable conduct.”
In 2018, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein threatened to subpoena the personal records of the staff of the House Intelligence Committee, during a closed-door meeting, Patel’s lawsuit notes.
But according to copies of the subpoenas forwarded by Google, the DoJ had already been surveilling the metadata from their phones and texts long before Rosenstein’s threats.
Former House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes had already exposed the illegality of Crossfire Hurricane when he released a report in Feb. 2018, claiming the Federal Bureau of Investigations “relied on politically motivated sources” to obtain surveillance warrants to monitor Trump campaign staffer Carter Page.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is currently investigating the DoJ’s sweeping effort to spy on congressional staff and journalists.
U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General is “reviewing the DOJ’s use of subpoenas and other legal authorities to obtain communication records of Members of Congress and affiliated persons, and the news media in connection with recent investigations of alleged unauthorized disclosures of information to the media,” according to its website.