Republicans Divided Over Request For Documents In Russia Investigation
Top House Republicans are divided over whether the Justice Department and FBI are sufficiently cooperating with their demands for sensitive documents connected to the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The FBI revealed in late Friday letters to three powerful House GOP committee chairmen that it had provided thousands of new documents to Congress in response to inquiries about the investigation of contacts between President Donald Trump’s associates and Russia-linked individuals during the campaign.
The disclosure was met with a notably positive response from Speaker Paul Ryan, whose office said House committees were “finally getting access” to long-sought documents. Though some requests were still unfulfilled, a Ryan spokeswoman said the FBI’s request for more time was “reasonable.”
Aides to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina also described productive negotiations with DOJ to obtain documents, while emphasizing that they expect to receive the remaining documents they’ve requested.
But Trump and one of his top House allies, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), upended the apparent detente. The chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus took to Twitter over the weekend to blast the Justice Department for intransigence.
“New reports of DOJ/FBI compliance with document requests are NOT accurate,” he wrote. “While they have turned over additional documents, the new documents represent a small percentage of what they owe. The notion that DOJ/FBI have been forthcoming with Congress is false.”
Trump seized on the conflict Monday morning to complain about the Justice Department and FBI — which are both led by his own appointees — and continue his campaign to undermine the probe.
“I have tried to stay uninvolved with the Department of Justice and FBI (although I do not legally have to), because of the now totally discredited and very expensive Witch Hunt currently going on,” he tweeted. “But you do have to ask why the DOJ & FBI aren’t giving over requested documents?”
It’s the third time in recent months that Trump has intervened in document demands by the GOP-led House committees, tweeting out complaints and criticizing his own department leaders — most notably Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees DOJ’s handling of the ongoing Russia probe.
The relationship between House Republicans and the Justice Department is complicated further by the role of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, who has issued separate document demands and subpoenas for details related to the Russia investigation.
In a letter to Rosenstein on Sunday, Nunes needled DOJ for sending “late-night letters” on Friday.
“[T]hey have raised more questions than answers,” he added. “These questions include whether the FBI and Department of Justice leadership intend to obey the law and fully comply with duly authorized congressional subpoenas.”
Nunes is demanding clarity on whether Rosenstein or FBI Director Christopher Wray are primarily responsible for meeting his committee’s demands. He also scolded Rosenstein for “unilaterally” restricting access to some sensitive information to the so-called Gang of Eight, a group of House and Senate leaders with access to the most sensitive intelligence DOJ shares with Congress.
Nunes also took issue with the FBI’s decision to punt one document request — a demand for transcripts and summaries of conversations between FBI informants and Trump campaign officials — to the director of National Intelligence, the umbrella official for the entire intelligence community.
In his letter, Nunes also made a new request for details about the FBI’s use of informants to interact Trump campaign associates and how much money may have been spent on their operations.
The FBI insisted in its Friday letter to Nunes that it had “substantially complied” with most of his document requests, including some related to the bureau’s use of a sensitive surveillance program known as FISA to monitor former Trump campaign aide Carter Page and whether it deployed informants to interact with the Trump campaign before the Russia investigation officially began.