For more than a year, the various congressional committees looking into an assortment of allegations of wrongdoing on the part of executive branch agencies in the prior administration have been met with delays and a lack of cooperation by the current administration in their requests for pertinent documents and information.
That has compelled the congressional committees — chief among them the House Intelligence Committee led by California Rep. Devin Nunes — to have to resort to threats of legal action to compel cooperation from the Department of Justice, and even then the documents are typically heavily redacted and nearly useless.
But Nunes revealed Sunday in a phone interview on “Fox & Friends” that he’d had enough of the stonewalling and threatened Attorney General Jeff Sessions with a charge of being in contempt of Congress if immediate cooperation with his requests didn’t ensue.
“Two weeks ago we sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a classified letter. Per usual, it was ignored,” stated Nunes. “So last week we sent a subpoena. Then on Thursday we discovered they’re not going to comply with our subpoena on some very important information that we need.”
“The only thing we can do is we have to move quickly to hold the Attorney General of the United States in contempt. And that’s what I’m going to press for this week,” the congressman added.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) May 6, 2018
Though it is unclear exactly what information Nunes was seeking that the DOJ had refused to turn over, a response letter from the DOJ to his request dated May 3 revealed that it pertained to an as-yet unnamed specific individual who was considered by the DOJ to be highly valuable in terms of a counterintelligence operation.
That letter from Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd — obtained by investigative reporter Sara Carter — read, in part: “After careful evaluation and following consultations with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the White House, the Department has determined that, consistent with applicable law and longstanding Executive Branch policy, it is not in a position to provide the information responsive to your request regarding a specific individual.
“Disclosure of responsive information to such requests can risk severe consequences, including potential loss of human lives, damage to relationships with valued international partners, compromise of ongoing criminal investigations, and interference with intelligence activities,” Boyd added.
But it was obvious from Nunes’ interview on Fox News that he was done accepting excuses from the DOJ and was prepared to take drastic action if necessary to compel their cooperation with his ongoing investigation into alleged abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Courts and warrant procedures by the Obama administration’s DOJ and FBI.
Bearing in mind the alleged FISA abuse had led to special counsel Robert Mueller Special Counsel investigation into alleged Russian interference and collusion with the Trump campaign in the 2016 election, Nunes noted the remarks from a federal judge in Virginia that heavily criticized the scope and secrecy of that investigation.
“If you have a counterintelligence investigation opened up on you as an American citizen, this is done secretly with only a few people’s knowledge. And if they go to court, they go to a secret court to get a warrant on you like they did with Carter Page,” Nunes said.
“So there is a very small apparatus in our country that holds the check-and-balance authority between Congress and the executive branch, and when the Obama administration decided to move forward on a counterintelligence investigation, in a campaign of all things, that’s how we’ve gotten to here,” he added.
To be sure, issues of national security are a real thing and it is understandable that the DOJ would be hesitant to provide information to Congress that could conceivably reveal secret information and place lives and ongoing investigations at risk.
However, claims of “national security” can’t be used as a blanket excuse to deny all requests from Congress as part of their duty to provide oversight of the executive branch and the actions of their agencies.
Nunes has made it clear that he is serious about getting to the bottom of the alleged misdeeds his committee is investigating, and he is willing to take serious action against the current head of the DOJ to force compliance with their oversight requests. Hopefully that action proves unnecessary.
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