Justice Department gives Congress new classified documents on Russia investigation
The Justice Department says it has given House Republicans new classified information related to the Russia investigation after lawmakers had threatened to hold officials in contempt of Congress or even impeach them.
A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Saturday that the department has partially complied with subpoenas from the House intelligence and judiciary committees after officials turned over more than a thousand new documents this week.
House Republicans had given the Justice Department and FBI a Friday deadline for all documents, most of which are related to the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation and the handling of its inquiry into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s emails when she was secretary of State. Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said the department asked for more time and will get it, at least for now.
“Our efforts have resulted in the committees finally getting access to information that was sought months ago, but some important requests remain to be completed,” Strong said in a statement Saturday. “Additional time has been requested for the outstanding items, and based on our understanding of the process we believe that request is reasonable. We expect the department to meet its full obligations to the two committees.”
The efforts by the Justice Department over the last week to deliver documents to the House Republicans appear to have at least temporarily defused a months-long standoff with Congress. Democrats have criticized the multiple document requests, charging that they are intended to discredit the department and distract from or undermine special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible role in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether the president obstructed justice.
In a letter sent to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) late Friday, the Justice Department said it had that day provided a classified letter to his panel regarding whether the FBI used “confidential human sources” before it officially began its Russia investigation in 2016. Bolstered by President Trump, Nunes has been pressing the department about an informant who spoke to members of Trump’s campaign as the FBI began to explore the campaign’s ties to Russia.
Trump has criticized the FBI’s role in the matter, deriding it as “Spygate,” but both Democrats and Republicans who were briefed on related classified material have disputed the president’s assertion that the FBI did anything improper.
In the letter to Nunes, the Justice Department’s acting assistant director of congressional affairs, Jill Tyson, said the congressman had also asked for transcripts of conversations between confidential human sources and Trump campaign officials. She said the department had referred that request to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
Tyson’s letter said the department had also given Nunes materials related to the department’s guidelines under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Republicans have suggested for months that the department abused that act when prosecutors and agents in 2016 applied for and received a secret warrant to monitor the communications of former Trump campaign associate Carter Page, who the FBI suspects may have acted as a Russian agent.
The department is also working to provide outstanding documents related to former British spy Christopher Steele, Tyson said, and the dossier he compiled of anti-Trump research during the presidential campaign. Trump and congressional Republicans have charged that the research in the dossier, paid for by Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, was used inappropriately to obtain the warrant on Page.
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