The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is threatening to drag the attorney general and FBI director before the committee next week if the Justice Department fails to turn over documents related to a salacious dossier of President Trump’s supposed activities in Russia.
The committee sent a pair of subpoenas to the Justice Department and the FBI, seeking documents related to the agencies’ relationship with former British spy Christopher Steele, who authored the dossier, as well as copies of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act applications that relied upon information provided by Mr. Steele, according to a letter authored this month by committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes.
Subpoenas were served on the DOJ and FBI on Aug. 24, requesting the information by Sept. 1, according to the letter. But the agencies failed to provide the requested information and the deadline was extended until Sept. 14.
“Resort to compulsory process was necessary because of DOJ’s and FBI’s insufficient responsiveness to the committee’s numerous Russia-investigation related requests over the past several months,” Mr. Nunes wrote in the letter, sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Mr. Nunes, California Republican, wrote that he does not intend to extend the deadline again. If the department fails to turn over requested documents, he will seek to compel Mr. Sessions and FBI Director Chris Wray to appear before the committee on Sept. 14 “to explain under oath DOJ’s and FBI’s unwillingness or inability to comply with the full subpoenas issued on August 24.”
If both Mr. Sessions and Mr. Wray refuse to turn over the documents or appear before the committee to explain their rationale, the committee is prepared “to proceed with any and all available legal options,” Mr. Nunes wrote. That includes holding the two men in contempt of Congress.
Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said the department was aware of the request, but she declined to comment further on whether the documents will be provided.
The letter sent to the attorney general was signed only by Mr. Nunes, who stepped back from the committee’s investigation into Russian interference because of an ethics review into his handling of classified information.
Rep. Mike Conway, the Republican committee member now charged with overseeing the probe, told CNN that he supported the effort to obtain the documents.
Committee investigations into Russian interference have kicked back into high gear this week with lawmakers return to Washington after the summer recess.
Partisan divisions have emerged within the House Intelligence Committee, with Democrats concerned Republicans’ efforts to gather information on the dossier and its author are meant to undermine claims about the Trump campaign.
In the past, Mr. Nunes has most prominently pushed the angle that Obama-era officials, including former National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice and former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, inappropriately asked to identify, or “unmask,” American citizens caught up in U.S. intelligence intercepts of foreign figures — in a covert attempt to implicate or “frame” a number of Trump campaign officials.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the committee, told MSNBC that he believes the subpoena effort would interfere with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russia matter.
“We don’t want to interfere in anything that Bob Mueller is doing. And we made it clear and committed at the outset we would do our best to coordinate so that we wouldn’t. This to me violates that commitment to the special counsel,” Mr. Schiff told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Tuesday. “And I leave it to my colleagues in the majority to explain why they’re doing this why this confrontation with the Department of Justice would seem so wholly unwarranted.”
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