It was a long time coming and may be too little too late. The Justice Department just provided House lawmakers with access to a document that the FBI used as the basis for starting its original counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
A Justice Department official confirmed to the media on Wednesday that all members of the House Intelligence Committee received access to the two-page document.
Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the committee chair, had asked for this access to the unredacted document. He complained that previous “heavily” redacted versions were not adequate for committee Republicans’ investigation into alleged abuses at the DOJ.
Nunes says that he and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Wednesday afternoon. This was just one day after Nunes threatened to hold both Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt. He also threatened to initiate impeachment proceedings against them if they did not comply with the request for the controversial document.
“During the meeting, we were finally given access to a version of the [Electronic Communication] that contained the information necessary to advance the Committee’s ongoing investigation of the Department of Justice and FBI,” Nunes said in a statement.
“Although the subpoenas issued by this Committee in August 2017 remain in effect, I’d like to thank Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein for his cooperation today,” he added.
The DOJ defended the redactions saying that the document was “narrowly tailored to protect the name of a foreign country and the name of a foreign agent.” Specifics have been replaced with identifiers like “foreign official” and “foreign government,” the official said.
“These words must remain redacted after determining that revealing the words could harm the national security of the American people by undermining the trust we have with this foreign nation,” the official continued, adding that they appear “only a limited number of times, and do not obstruct the underlying meaning of the document.”
Some conservatives are looking into what they say is evidence that the department’s actions during the 2016 election was full of bias. Democrats believe they are just trying to stir up confusion around Mueller or find a reason to shut him down.
“We’re not going to just hold in contempt. We will have a plan to hold in contempt and impeach,” Nunes said of the two Trump-appointed officials on Fox News on Tuesday.
Nunes explained to Fox’s Laura Ingraham that the document will confirm why the FBI opened its original investigation into the Trump campaign.
The New York Times reported in December that the federal investigation that is now being led by Robert Mueller was initiated after the FBI received a tip that Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had claimed to an Australian diplomat that he had damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
Nunes received a memo that was declassified in February that the FBI opened the probe after receiving the tip about Papadopoulos.
This revelation about Papadopoulos’ role is counter to claims by some Republicans that the FBI used information from an unverified dossier of opposition research into Trump. This document, known as the “Steele” dossier was partially funded by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.
The “Steele” dossier made allegations about Trump’s ties to Moscow. The president, who calls the probe a “witch hunt,” has described the dossier as “fiction.”
Rosenstein’s new found willingness to let Nunes view the unredacted document has not caused GOP anger to subside over department foot-dragging.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a House Judiciary Committee member, said if his panel does not receive the documents they’ve requested as part of his panel’s investigation into FBI decision-making during the election, then all options are on the table.
“Our patience has run out because the American people’s patience have run out so I think if they don’t change things in a dramatic fashion in a short period of time — I’m talking days, not weeks or months — then I think everything is on the table,” Jordan said on Wednesday.
Jordan said the options include contempt and impeachment proceedings as well as calling for resignations.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, defended the two officials after Nunes publicly voiced his impeachment threat.
“Both Rosenstein and Wray have already made available to the Intelligence Committee scores of highly sensitive documents related to ongoing investigations — including Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications — the details of which the majority proceeded to disclose in a deliberately misleading manner which the department rightly called ‘extraordinarily reckless,’” Schiff said in a statement.
“The chairman’s rhetoric is a shocking and irresponsible escalation of the GOP’s attacks on the FBI and DOJ,” he added, claiming it is intended to undermine Mueller’s investigation.
Credit: The Hill