Department of Justice Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Northern District of Illinois U.S. Attorney John Lausch to oversee the delivery of more than 1.2 million documents demanded by Congress from the FBI. Congressional investigators claim the FBI has ‘slow-walked’ the release of the information needed for the lawmakers’ investigation and some lawyers are saying the DOJ’s appointment is nothing but “political theater” to avoid contempt of Congress.
Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray made the decision to tap Lausch over the weekend after a subpoena deadline imposed by Congress on Justice Department Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein passed without action.
President Trump also pressured the DOJ to turn over the documents on Saturday tweeting that the DOJ was “slow-walking” the requests to Congress related to the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server to send classified information.
“Lawmakers of the House Judiciary Committee are angrily accusing the Department of Justice of missing the Thursday Deadline for turning over un-redacted Documents relating to FISA abuse, FBI, Comey, Lynch, McCabe, Clinton Emails and much more,” the president said on Twitter.
Lawmakers with the House Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight Committee said they were becoming increasingly frustrated by the DOJ and Bureau, which has stonewalled them for more than four months on the document requests. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC, threatened Saturday that there was a good possibility that the DOJ’s failure to comply with the subpoena will lead to a contempt of Congress and possible replacement of Rosenstein. Congress has received roughly 3,162 documents of the 1.2 million documents obtained by the Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz in the investigation into the FBI.
Meadows, who was on Fox News Judge Jeanine Saturday, told the Fox News anchor if Rosenstein “does not turn over the documents there are a growing number of us on Capitol Hill who believes that someone else needs to do the job. Constitutionally we have some things that we can do.” Meadows said Monday it is “window dressing to avoid a contempt of congress proceeding.”
“This is all political theater and trying to prevent contempt of Congress…”
Joe DiGenova, founding partner of the Washington, D.C. law firm of diGenova & Toensing and who was considered until recently to represent Trump said the DOJ’s decision to appoint Lausch is political theater.
“I think the problem with the production of the documentation is adding too much supervision,” said DiGenova regarding the appointment of Lausch. “This is all political theater and trying to prevent contempt of Congress. This is all designed to get (House Speaker) Paul Ryan not to agree to contempt and an attempt to delay production of the documents until the November election, hoping the Republican’s lose the House.
DiGenova said Wray and Rosenstein are responsible for the delays and should be held in contempt.
“Rosenstein has stolen 15 months of Donald trump’s presidency because he didn’t want the responsibility of having the case in the Justice Department and he illegally appointed a Special Counsel because he didn’t have any evidence of a crime. He knows better than that. The whole thing has a political stench to it because of the cowardice of Rosenstein.”
On Sunday night, however, Sarah Isgur Flores, spokeswoman for the DOJ, sent a press release to members of the media, saying both the DOJ and FBI “understand the concerns of members of Congress and the President about the pace of production and level of redactions in the documents already received by the Committee.”
“They agree that the Department and the FBI should accommodate the Committee’s request in a timely fashion and in the fullest manner consistent with the Department’s law enforcement and national security responsibilities,” she added.
The FBI is also expecting to produce 3,600 pages of additional material Monday requested by the House Judiciary Committee.
The selection of Lausch, who was appointed by President Trump, is a significant development. He has experience both with the DOJ and in private practice and “will ensure that production moves at an acceptable pace and that any redactions are necessary and consistent with the relevant laws and regulations. He will have independent authority to oversee this production and report progress to the Attorney General.”
Isgur Flores noted that Lausch “will also be available to meet with members of Congress to discuss the redaction process to ensure that they remain confident in the Department’s efforts to be as transparent as possible with the Committee.”
“The ongoing credibility of the Department with the American public is vital to its’ law enforcement and national security mission. By appointing Mr. Lausch to oversee this specific document production, our goal is to assure Congress, the President, and the American people that the FBI is going to produce the relevant documents and will do so completely and with integrity and professionalism,” she added.
Several weeks ago, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-VA, sent the subpoena to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein when the agency failed to comply with a request for the documents. Goodlatte and House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-SC, say they are pursuing other legal remedies to retrieve the documents from Rosenstein.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-CA, said his committee has also been stymied by the DOJ and FBI in producing documents and has also threatened contempt if the documents are not produced, as reported earlier. His committee demanded Wednesday in a letter to the DOJ and FBI that they comply with the committee’s subpoena to review documents pertaining to the bureau’s Russia investigation. In particular, the committee is asking for the un-redacted version of the original investigative document, also known as the “Electronic Communication” that launched the FBI counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign.
Nunes wants the un-redacted copy of the “Electronic Communication,” which Rep. Trey Gowdy, R- S.C. and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-CA, had originally reviewed during the committee’s Russia investigation. He is also asking for the un-redacted copies of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act applications submitted by the FBI to the court on Carter Page. Page, who was a short-term volunteer for the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, was accused by former British spy Christopher Steele in his unverified dossier of colluding with the Russians in the 2016 election.
David Schoen, a criminal defense and civil rights attorney, who has questioned the Office of Special Counsel investigation said, “I don’t understand why Sessions wouldn’t just appoint either a Special Master type to oversee discovery or once and for all appoint a Special Counsel with a mandate to look into these matters and define “these matters” to include all relevant issues.”
He added that “as for the FISA applications, according to the FISA court itself, there should be no restriction on DOJ sending them to Congress. So if ok with the court, no reason for DOJ to be dragging its feet.”
A congressional official told this reporter it is essential that the committee review the document, which is not considered highly classified, without the heavy redactions put in place by the DOJ and FBI.
Sessions directed the FBI last week “to double the number of people working to fulfill the request from the House Judiciary Committee for all documents reviewed by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General related to the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a privately-owned email server while Secretary of State,” Isgur Flores stated.
She added there is 54 FBI staff working every day in two shifts from 8 a.m. to midnight.
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who has been investigating for roughly a year the FBI’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, resulted in the production of over one million pages of material.
Isgur Flores said the majority of that material was not relevant to the FBI’s investigation and “because the Office of the Inspector General is part of the Department of Justice, in response to the IG’s request, the internal production to the IG included all communications between or among certain employees for a specified date range, regardless of the content of such communications.”
She also noted the “documents include grand jury material, the disclosure of which is prohibited by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), classified information, and information about unrelated and ongoing investigations that must be redacted in order to preserve the integrity of other investigations and to avoid the appearance of political influence in criminal prosecutions.”