Apple wasn’t just trapped in legal demands target democratic politicians, it seems. New York Times sources claim that the Justice Department summoned Apple to appear for information on former President Trump’s White House attorney Don McGahn in February 2018. It’s unclear exactly what the FBI was looking for or whether McGahn was the center of attention, but officials issued Apple gag orders to let the lawyer know for a while – he didn’t tell her about the request until May of this year.
The company reportedly did not say what it shared with the government, nor describe the nature of the matter. There were a number of potential issues at stake. Trump was angry with McGahn at the time about Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia and the January 2018 leak, but the Time considered unlikely. However, the request could also come from the Mueller investigation itself (McGahn was the Trump campaign’s top lawyer in 2016). Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort also faced fraud charges just a day before the subpoena.
We asked Apple for comment. McGahn’s attorney declined to comment.
The news came just days after it was announced that the Trump-era DOJ had requested account information from Apple for at least two Democratic politicians, Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, around the same time. In both cases, concerns did not just revolve around who was targeted, but how – what did officers learn? The tech company recently instituted a cap of 25 credentials per request in an attempt to prevent governments from requesting excessive amounts of data.
The incident also heightens concerns over the publication of the claims. Technology companies have plaunched for more transparency for years, and cases like this might explain why. While Apple is unlikely to have been able to share specific details of McGahn’s case in the near term, years of gag orders certainly haven’t helped attempts to open up on demands for government surveillance.
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