Top House Dem: Comey Memos Could Kill Russia Probe, Ensnare Deputy AG In Contempt Of Congress

|
Posted: Apr 19, 2018 8:30 PM
Top House Dem: Comey Memos Could Kill Russia Probe, Ensnare Deputy AG In Contempt Of Congress

Congress’s patience with the Department of Justice is running thin, as they’re dragging their feet in releasing troves of documents relating to the Russia investigation and Hillary Clinton On the latter, the DOJ has appointed a special lawyer to oversee the release of some 3,600 pages of new documents, which has irked some congressional Republicans (via Politico):

The Justice Department has appointed a U.S. attorney to oversee the release of documents related to the FBI’s 2016 investigation of Hillary Clinton amid Republican complaints — including from President Donald Trump — that the DOJ is slow-walking their release.

Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said Monday that U.S. Attorney John Lausch will direct the Justice Department’s process of combing through, redacting and releasing thousands of documents sought by lawmakers. She said Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray selected Lausch because as a U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, he is “outside of D.C. and independent of the FBI hierarchy.”

"Mr. Lausch, who has experience in the department and in private practice, will ensure that production moves at an acceptable pace and that any redactions are necessary and consistent under the relevant laws and regulations," Flores said.

But the move is already drawing frustration and confusion from top Republicans in Congress. Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said the Lausch announcement raises questions about what the Justice Department was doing up to this point to respond to Congress' demands.

"Congress requested these documents months ago. Congress has consistently been assured the production was in progress. How is injecting someone new into an ongoing review and production process calculated to expedite the process?" Gowdy said in a statement. 

When threatened with contempt and possible impeachment, the DOJ finally turned over a two-page document that reportedly launched the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into whether the Trump camp colluded with the Russians in 2016. Yet, on top of Clinton and Russia, there are document requests concerning the firing of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and alleged FISA abuses. In all, over a million pages are in the queue and the Hill is growing irritated at the pace of the disclosures. And then there are the Comey memos, which were reported to be turned over to Congress later this afternoon (via Politico):

The Department of Justice is expected to send to Congress on Thursday afternoon copies of former FBI Director James Comey's memos documenting his interactions with President Donald Trump, according to a source familiar with the department's plans.

Comey has told lawmakers he drafted seven memos detailing his encounters with the president in person and on the phone. He has also publicly claimed that he felt pressured by Trump to back off the FBI's pursuit of an investigation into the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia as well as into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

The memos are believed to be central to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into whether Trump or his allies attempted to obstruct the Russia probe.

House Republicans had previously threatened to subpoena the Department of Justice to obtain the memos.

The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), had prepared the subpoena in the event Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein opted against forking over the memos.

Yet, these memos could produce a fight, as the top House Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), said that a subpoena for these documents could place Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in contempt and Congress and derail the Russia investigation that’s now being quarterbacked by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. It’s a trap, you see (via Washington Examiner):

The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee says Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., is poised to subpoena the Justice Department for former FBI Director James Comey’s memos, which the agency so far has failed to produce.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., warned such a move puts Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in jeopardy of being placed in contempt of Congress and the special counsel investigation of being shut down prematurely.

[…]

Nadler warned that if a subpoena is issued it would be damaging to special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

The Democrat said the memos are "key" to the special counsel's work, and "pursuant to a longstanding Department policy and absent any satisfactory accommodation, the Department of Justice cannot simply hand over evidence that is part of an ongoing criminal investigation."

Should House Republicans refuse any such "accommodation," Nadler said, "I fear the Majority will have manufactured an excuse to hold the Deputy Attorney General in contempt of Congress."

"If they succeed in tarnishing the Deputy Attorney General, perhaps they will have given President Trump pretext he has sought to replace Mr. Rosenstein with someone willing to do his bidding and end the Special Counsel's investigation."

Nadler vowed to fight to ensure the investigation remains unimpeded.

Here we go.