WASHINGTON (AP) — A political research firm behind a dossier of allegations about President Donald Trump's connections to Russia is balking at subpoenas from the House intelligence committee, with a lawyer for the firm questioning the legitimacy of the panel's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Joshua Levy, a lawyer for Fusion GPS, said in a letter to the panel Monday that House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes is acting "in bad faith." Nunes stepped back from the Russia investigation after criticism he was too close to the White House, but is still chairman of the panel and signs its subpoenas.
Levy signaled that the company won't cooperate with the panel. He said in the letter that if any of the employees subpoenaed — Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson and two others with the firm — are compelled to appear before the committee, they will exercise their Fifth Amendment rights and refuse to testify. He also portrayed the subpoena as an attack on their free speech rights.
In a statement, Levy said Nunes "would rather use his office to learn about who funded opposition research on Donald Trump than whether the Russian government interfered with our election. Americans of all political stripes should find his actions chilling."
The dossier contends that the Russian government had amassed compromising information about Trump and had been engaged in a years-long effort to support and assist him. The document circulated among Washington journalists last year and was provided to the FBI. Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators — who are probing whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to sway the election — have spoken with the former British spy who helped compile it, The Associated Press has reported.
At a White House news conference on Monday, Trump said that though he would like for the Russia investigation to come to an end, he had no plans to fire Mueller.
Last summer, Simpson spoke privately for about 10 hours to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Levy, the firm's attorney, said the firm is also cooperating on a voluntary basis with the Senate intelligence committee. Both panels also are investigating Russian meddling in the election.
Last week, a person familiar with the House subpoenas said they were originally requested by Texas Rep. Mike Conaway, the Republican who has led the Russia probe since Nunes stepped aside in April. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publically about private committee negotiations.
As chairman, Nunes still retains the power to subpoena and thus signs off on all subpoenas that are issued from the committee. He has the power to issue subpoenas without minority party support, and the top Democrat on the panel, California Rep. Adam Schiff, did not sign the subpoenas to Fusion.
Levy said in the letter that Nunes' signature undermines the legitimacy of the probe and also the subpoenas themselves. In a 17-page letter, he laid out several questions about how they were issued.
"Your unilateral issuance of these subpoenas violates your recusal and further undermines the legitimacy of this investigation," he wrote. "Nothing within the subpoenas or their attachments provides any indication that the Committee authorized you, as chair, to sign or issue them. This act is another example of how you, as chair, have run your own operation in parallel to the committee's investigation."
Levy also noted that the subpoenas sent to Fusion directed "the Central Intelligence Agency" to produce documents, even though the company has no relationship with the CIA. It is unclear why the subpoenas mentioned the CIA or whether that was a mistake.
Aides to Nunes and Conaway didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
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