In the latest episode of “as Washington turns,” top officials at the Department of Justice invited ranking House lawmakers to sit down for a game of show and tell on Thursday. But amazingly, after dragging their feet for months, they still won’t be bringing anything to show.
The DOJ continues to defy House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ (R-Ca.) order, claiming the documents are too dangerous to be seen. Instead, in a last-ditch effort to avoid criminal charges, they offered to verbally tell Nunes and ranking republican Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) all they know. The lawmakers took them up on the offer but aren’t making any promises until they hear what the Justice Department has to say.
Nunes is still seriously considering charging Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other DOJ and Federal Bureau of Investigation officials with contempt of Congress, for refusing to turn over the documents that the House Intelligence Committee Chairman wanted months ago.
On Tuesday, Rosenstein raced from the New York office, back to Washington, D.C. for a hastily convened West-wing meeting between himself, his deputy Ed O’Callahan, and John Kelly, the White House Chief of Staff.
Sources with knowledge of the conference report that Kelly was insistent on working out a solution that would appease the Intelligence Committee.
After presenting their case to Kelly for sitting on the information, which allegedly involves an individual source so sensitive that even top-secret-clearance-holding watchdogs might compromise him, they worked out a potential deal.
Dialing straight from the White House, they got Chairman Nunes and Rep. Gowdy both on speaker phone and offered the private briefing.
Exactly what “classified” information Nunes requested originally isn’t known, because it was sealed, but the follow-up subpoena he issued last week demands “all documents referring or related to the individual referenced in Chairman Nunes’ April 24, 2018, classified letter to Attorney General Sessions.”
Nunes got a response letter telling him that the Justice Department “is not in a position to provide information responsive to your request regarding a specific individual.”
The letter signed by Assistant AG Stephen Boyd stated, “disclosure of responsive information to such requests can risk severe consequences, including potential loss of human lives, damage to relationship with valued international partners, compromise of ongoing criminal investigations and interferences with intelligence activities.”
Nunes went ballistic. “We discovered that they are not going to comply with our subpoena,” he told Fox news. “The only thing left to do is we have to move quickly to hold the attorney general of the United States in contempt and that is what I will press for this week.”
Rosenstein managed to convince Kelly that turning things over to Chairman Nunes “could risk lives by potentially exposing the source, a U.S. citizen who has provided intelligence to the CIA and FBI.”
Nunes shot back, insisting that despite the language of the subpoena, the classified-document request did not refer to an individual. “They are citing spurious national security concerns to evade congressional oversight while leaking information to the Washington Post ostensibly about classified meetings,” he scolded.
He wants the documents related to the Mueller investigation. He already knows who the individual is, he named him in the classified request.
“We’re interested in documents that should have been given to us at least last fall. That’s what we’re looking for, and any claim to the contrary is wrong, and they know it’s wrong.”
“Congress has a right and a duty to get this information and we will succeed in getting this information, regardless of whatever fantastic stories the DOJ and FBI spin to the Post,” he added.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) weighed in on the issue, siding with Nunes. The DOJ is only fighting disclosure because it would make them look bad and prove they “are trying to discredit this president,” he ventured on Laura Ingraham’s show on Wednesday.
McCarthy pointed out that everyone has been waiting for the requested information a very long time. Out of 1.2 million pages of records that already should have been delivered, only “a couple thousand” were actually provided.
More important than that, he declares, Devin Nunes “runs a special committee, that deals with classified matters. The idea for people to say that they can’t send them classified information doesn’t hold.”
The DOJ has used the same stunt already, McCarthy reminds everyone.
“Every time we’ve gotten information, lo and behold when they’ve said they had to hold something for us because it was classified and redacted, it had nothing to do with that, but it was an embarrassment to what these people are trying to do because they have their own personal beliefs, a few of them, and are trying to discredit this president.
Another thing that Chairman Nunes is furious about is the fact that the Justice Department won’t even turn over the memo spelling out the Scope of Robert Mueller’s powers and duties as a special counsel in the overarching Russia collusion investigation.