Department of Justice Attorney General Jeff Sessions has bought himself time from a threat of contempt of Congress for failing to produce classified information lawmakers requested after the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and a colleague attended a closed-door meeting Thursday afternoon with members of the DOJ and intelligence community.
Chairman Devin Nunes, R-CA, and House Intelligence Committee member Congressman Trey Gowdy, R-SC, met with representatives from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, FBI and DOJ in an effort to obtain or view the classified information requested several weeks ago on a particular individual related to the Special Counsel’s probe on alleged collusion between President Trump’s campaign and Russia.
“None of these folks at DOJ and FBI were elected officials and yet they are consistently keeping information from the committees and the American people”
Rep. Jim Jordan
Nunes, along with the support of his Republican colleagues and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-LA, threatened Sessions with contempt for first ignoring a letter on the request sent two weeks ago and then later refusing to honor the request last week in a formal letter, according to the committee. The House Intelligence Committee, along with other committees, have made the contempt threats numerous times before in an effort to obtain information necessary for their oversight. Nunes and his colleagues have long complained that the DOJ and FBI have hindered their committees’ ability to investigate by either stonewalling or refusing to turn over the information.
It is not certain how many days the committee has given the DOJ to turn over the requested information or what details they are negotiating as committee officials did not discuss anything beyond the press release.
“We had a productive discussion today with officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Department of Justice, and FBI in which we raised questions related to information requested from the Intelligence Community,” according to a joint statement released by Nunes and Gowdy. “The officials committed to holding further discussions of these matters, and we look forward to continuing our dialogue next week to satisfy the Committee’s request.”
Congressman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio is one of the numerous Republican congressional members who has been fighting the DOJ and FBI for information over the past year told this reporter that the information, other than highly classified information, requested by the committees should be made public.
“None of these folks at DOJ and FBI were elected officials and yet they are consistently keeping information from the committees and the American people,” said Jordan. “We’re talking about an investigation into a duly elected President of the United States and it’s a struggle just to get to the truth when we are being stonewalled or given excuses for the information we’re requesting.”
On Sunday, the Department of Justice released a letter sent to Nunes on May 3, which addressed the classified information his committee had requested. In the letter, it suggested the committee had requested information on an unnamed individual considered by the DOJ and FBI to be a very valuable source in their counterintelligence operation. Committee officials would not disclose any aspect of their request either before or after the DOJ disclosed the information.
In the letter, DOJ Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said, “disclosure of responsive information to such requests can risk severe consequences, including the potential loss of human lives, damage to relationships with valued international partners, compromise of ongoing criminal investigations, and interference with intelligence activities.”
According to the Washington Post the White House, which is referred to in Boyd’s letter, agreed with the DOJ’s decision not to make the information regarding the classified source at the center of the dispute available to Congress.
However, a congressional official with knowledge of the request and the meetings said that is not an accurate portrayal of the administration’s concerns. The congressional official said the White House suggested that the DOJ find a way to share the classified information, which may mean selected members can view it in a secure location.
White House officials could not be reached immediately for comment.