WASHINGTON — Apple told Donald McGahn, the White House counsel to former President Donald Trump, last month that the Justice Department had subpoenaed information about an account that belonged to him in February 2018 and that the government barred the company from telling him at the time, according to two people briefed on the matter.
McGahn’s wife received a similar notice from Apple, said one of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.
It is not clear what FBI agents were scrutinizing, nor whether McGahn was their specific focus. In investigations, agents sometimes compile a large list of phone numbers and email addresses that were in contact with a subject and seek to identify all those people by using subpoenas to communications companies for any account information like names, computer addresses and credit card numbers associated with them.
Still, the disclosure that agents secretly collected data of a sitting White House counsel is striking, as it comes amid a political backlash to revelations about Trump-era seizures of data of reporters and Democrats in Congress for leak investigations. The president’s top lawyer is also a chief point of contact between the White House and the Justice Department.
Apple told McGahn that it complied with the subpoena in a timely fashion but declined to tell him what it provided the government, according to a person briefed on the matter. Under Justice Department policy, gag orders for subpoenas may be renewed for up to a year at a time, suggesting that prosecutors went to court several times to prevent Apple from notifying the McGahns earlier.
Spokespeople for Apple and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A lawyer for McGahn declined to comment.
Apple told the McGahns that it received the subpoena Feb. 23, 2018, according to a person briefed on the matter. The other person familiar with the matter said the subpoena had been issued by a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia.
It is not clear why prosecutors obtained the subpoena.