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Spying on his own counsel: The making of the Trump surveillance state and Don McGahn

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Three years after the fact, we learn that in 2018, the Justice Department issued secret subpoenas for communication records of President Donald Trump’s own White House counsel, Don McGahn. That report followed earlier stories this month that prosecutors had issued similar subpoenas for Apple and Microsoft “metadata” on multiple news reporters and Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell.

In other words, the secret information gathering extended to perceived outside “enemies” or disloyal members of the administration, Democrat or Republican, like McGahn. And that is just what we now know about the perceived foes investigated in 2018. We have not learned what surveillance may have been done as Trump’s vilification of opponents accelerated in 2019 and 2020.

Trump treats White House employees like enemies 

The dangers are impossible to exaggerate.

Metadata is everything about a phone or email communication other than its content – for example, the recipient’s name and address, the time and date of the communication, and any follow-up interactions between sender and receiver. By collecting the data, as New York Times editors have explained, “the government can discover intimate details about a person’s lifestyle and beliefs – political leanings and associations, medical issues, sexual orientation, habits of religious worship, and even marital infidelities.”

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