The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) demanded Wednesday that the FBI and DOJ comply with the committee’s subpoena to review documents pertaining to the bureau’s Russia investigation. In particular, the committee wants the un-redacted version of the original investigative document, also known as “Electronic Communication” that launched the FBI counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign, according to a letter issued by the Chairman.
Chairman Devin Nunes, R-CA, sent the letter to Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray warning them that their lack of compliance with the committee’s original Aug. 24, 2017 subpoena to turn over all requested documents could result in “the Committee pursuing all appropriate legal remedies, including seeking civil enforcement” in a federal district court. The committee gave the FBI and DOJ until April 11 to turn over all the documentation requested.
“The DOJ and FBI are attempting to keep us from seeing an un-redacted copy of it…”
The request for the un-redacted version of the originating “electronic communication” is new and it reveals that the committee is looking into the FBI’s initiation of the investigation into alleged collusion between President Trump and Russia in the 2016 presidential election. The document would be a detailed report of the FBI’s reasoning to move forward with the investigation into the Trump campaign after the bureau was informed by Australian authorities of a conversation Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos had with one of their diplomats at a London bar.
“This is a key document in getting the whole thing started,” stated a congressional official, with knowledge of the investigation. “The DOJ and FBI are attempting to keep us from seeing an un-redacted copy of it.”
Nunes had originally asked Wray for assistance on Feb. 27 for an un-redacted copy of the originating “Electronic Communication” but on March 14 when committee investigators were given access to the document from the FBI it was a heavily redacted version, according to the letter and congressional officials.
Nunes called Wray the next day and voiced his dissatisfaction with the FBI’s failure to produce the UN-redacted documents.
“At your request, I have endeavored to execute the Committee’s oversight responsibilities more informally,” Nunes said in his letter. “On March 23, 2018, FBI’s Assistant Director for Legislative Affairs informed the Committee that FBI would refuse to further un-redact the EC based on its supposed sensitivity. The document in question is not highly classified, and law enforcement sources have apparently not been shy about leaking to the press information that the Department and Bureau refuse to share with Congress.”
FBI officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
The committee had requested all the documents and information from the DOJ’s Office of Legislative Affairs on Feb. 7 and later followed up with an email on Feb. 8, 14 and 26, the letter states.
“After nearly three weeks without a meaningful response, (Office of Legislative Affairs) finally informed the Committee on Feb. 26, 2018, that ‘the Department has not agreed to allow further member access.'” Nunes said in his letter “this arbitrary resistance to legitimate oversight is unacceptable.”
The letter stated that the “DOJ has for months restricted Member access to other documents responsive to the August 24 subpoenas, including Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications targeting Carter Page.” Page, a short-term volunteer for the Trump campaign, told this reporter that he wanted the committee to have access to his FISA applications, which were approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in October 2016.
The committee’s final report on the Russia investigation criticized the FBI for withholding information from the court that the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton Campaign paid for former British spy Christopher Steele’s work on the unverified dossier, which accused Page of colluding with the Russians.
On Nov. 2, 2017, Nunes sent a letter to Rosenstein, informing him that he had designated Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-SC, to review the documents and that decision was “made without prejudice to, and shall not limit or waive the authority of all Members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence from reviewing the document at a later date upon request.”
Despite promises made by both DOJ Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Wray to comply with the congressional requests, investigators on numerous committees tell this reporter they failed to do so.
“We’ve been dealing with this for more than a year now and they always have some excuse,” said a congressional official. “One example is the information we’ve seen lately on the redactions they kept from the committees in the (FBI Special Agent) Peter Strzok and (FBI Attorney Lisa) Page text messages regarding FISC Court Judge (Rudy) Contreras. It’s really hard to believe that they didn’t find this FISA stuff on Contreras relevant to our investigation. Congress is having continual problems getting information from the DOJ and FBI, even in the face of subpoenas.”
Late last month, new redacted text messages uncovered by congressional investigators revealed Strzok and his paramour Page discussed Strzok’s relationship with U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras. Contreras presided over Dec. 1, 2017, hearing where former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and on Dec. 7, he was recused from the case without explanation, as previously reported.
Strzok was removed from Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel’s Office last year after the DOJ’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz uncovered thousands of text message revealing the agent’s anti-Trump bias.
Numerous Republican congressional officials have told this reporter that the FBI and DOJ have continually stonewalled on delivering the requested information.
House Intelligence Committee members, however, have received “all FBI Form FD-I 023s and all remaining FBI Form FD- 302s responsive to the Committee’s August 24, 2017 subpoenas,” a congressional source said.
Nunes and the FBI agreed on one exception, which “pertains to a single FD-302, which, due to national security interests, will be shown separately by Director Wray to myself and my senior investigators” according to a letter issued from the committee to the DOJ and FBI in January.
A congressional source said “in addition to the Inspector General investigation, the DOJ has committed to making Bruce Ohr, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and other officials available to Congress for interviews. On top of that, you have the Goodlatte subpoena. So it’s a safe bet there will be a lot of new revelations about this issue.”
In January, the DOJ agreed to make DOJ Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr; FBI Supervisory Special Agent Peter Strzok; former FBI General Counsel James Baker; FBI Attorney Lisa Page; FBI Attorney Sally Moyer; FBI Assistant Director Greg Brower; FBI Assistant Director Bill Priestap; and FBI Special Agent James Rybicki, available to the committee for questioning.