The Justice Department says it has given House Republicans new classified information related to the Russia investigation after they had threatened to hold officials in contempt of Congress or even impeach them.
A spokesperson for House Speaker Paul Ryan says the department has partially complied with multiple requests from the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees. House Republicans had given the department a Friday deadline for all documents, but Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said the department asked for more time.
“Our efforts have resulted in the committees finally getting access to information that was sought months ago, but some important requests remain to be completed,” Strong said in a statement Saturday. “Additional time has been requested for the outstanding items, and based on our understanding of the process we believe that request is reasonable. We expect the department to meet its full obligations to the two committees.”
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In a letter sent to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes late Friday, the Justice Department said it had that day provided a classified letter to his panel regarding whether the FBI used “confidential human sources” before it officially began its Russia investigation in 2016. Nunes has been pressing the department on an informant who spoke to members of President Donald Trump’s campaign as the FBI began to explore the campaign’s ties to Russia.
The department has already given top lawmakers in the House and Senate three classified briefings on the informant. But Nunes has said he wanted the entire committee to receive the information.
In the letter, the Justice Department’s acting assistant director of congressional affairs, Jill Tyson, said the department had also given Nunes materials related to oversight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Republicans have for months questioned whether the department abused that act when prosecutors and agents in 2016 applied for and received a secret warrant to monitor the communications of a Trump campaign associate.
Democrats have criticized the multiple document requests, charging that they are intended to discredit the department and discredit or even undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia ties and whether there was obstruction of justice.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has backed the document requests, and he led a meeting last week with committee chairmen and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to try to resolve the issue. In a television interview two days after that meeting, on June 17, Nunes said if they don’t get the documents by this week, “there’s going to be hell to pay” and indicated the House could act on contempt or even impeachment. A spokesman for Nunes did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.
Tyson also wrote House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte, who had subpoenaed the department for documents related to the Russia investigation and also the department’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails in 2016. She detailed progress on those requests and said the department is “expeditiously completing them.”
In the letters, Tyson said the department had built “new tools” to search top secret documents and had diverted resources from other congressional requests.