- DOJ officials limit a briefing on new documents to a select few Congressional members
- The briefing is planned to take place during the first two days of the North Korea Summit in Singapore, when all eyes will be on the negotiations
- Sources worry the documents provided will be heavily redacted
- A source says during a May 24 Congressional meeting with DOJ, the department argued with congressional members over who would have access to the documents
The Department of Justice reneged on a commitment to provide access to documents they promised to congressional lawmakers by Thursday morning. Instead, DOJ issued a press release after midnight suggesting they will only meet with a group of select lawmakers to discuss the matter on the same day the North Korea summit opens in Singapore, according to numerous sources and a DOJ statement.
Moreover, the Justice Department also issued new stipulations for briefing congressional members and limited the meeting with only the Gang of Eight, which is comprised of eight leaders within Congress who are briefed on classified intelligence matters.
These sources claim that briefing Gang of Eight lawmakers restricts the dissemination and discussion of the documents that will be taken for review. Although the DOJ contends that the documents are highly sensitive material, in reality, these documents are not considered to contain high-level national security information.
So while it seems that DOJ is complying, congressional sources say it means that the documents provided may be highly redacted.
A source familiar with the discussions stated that the documents, “…do not rise to Gang of Eight level material requiring such strict rules that would limit those members to discuss the material with other lawmakers.”
Lawmakers are also questioning the Justice Department’s decision to provide the documents early next week during the highly anticipated start of the North Korea summit. A senior Justice Department official announced the briefing is, “expected on Monday or Tuesday, depending on members’ schedules.”
On May 24, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), Rep. Trey Gowdy, (R-SC) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), met with DOJ officials and FBI Director Christopher Wray to discuss Nunes’ demand on April 24, for specific classified documents related to the committee’s investigation into the FBI’s handling of the Russia/Trump investigation. According to a source familiar with the discussions, the DOJ pleaded with the members, “not to say anything about the DOJ having brought the documents to the meeting.”
In last night’s press release, however, the DOJ admitted to having the documents. A senior Justice Department official accused the committee members of not reviewing the documents provided at the May meeting stating, “The Department and FBI will also provide the documents that were available for review but not inspected by the members at the previous briefing along with some additional material.”
According to sources with knowledge of the May 24 briefing, the DOJ argued with congressional members over who would have access to the documents during the meeting. The DOJ also limited the distribution of the documents to “only those members in the room” and would not allow investigators to review the documents for their ongoing investigation into the FBI’s handling of the alleged Russia/Trump probe.
“This request for documents is not at the Gang of Eight level,” said a source familiar with the matter.
“This is yet another line of obfuscation, stonewalling and delay tactics by the DOJ. They were supposed to deliver the documents to Congress Thursday and then at the last second did what they always do: fail to keep their commitment. Now they are waiting until the opening of the North Korea summit in an attempt to bury it from the public.”
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fl) told this reporter that the DOJ’s failure to produce documents has put both Congress and the American people in a seemingly never ending predicament that does more harm than good for the nation.
“It’s the same old games and Congress is facilitating this behavior by continuing this back and forth with the Justice Department,” said DeSantis. The lawmaker noted that Congress has the power of the purse and authority to follow through with the contempt proceedings against DOJ Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein.
DeSantis added, “Americans are upset about this and have every reason to be. They could’ve turned these documents over more than eight months ago and answered our questions and we wouldn’t be in the mess that we are in now.”
A senior Justice Department official said in the press release, “The Department and FBI are prepared to brief members on certain questions specifically raised by the Speaker and other members… The Department and FBI believe it can provide information that is directly responsive to congressional inquiries in a manner that is consistent with its national security and law enforcement responsibilities, and is pleased to do so.”
The DOJ official said with regard to not providing the documents on Thursday, “Although the Department and FBI would have liked to provide this information as early as this week, officials have taken a little additional time to provide the most fulsome answers to the members’ questions as possible. The Department and FBI take congressional inquiries seriously and believes that the documents provided next week will be valuable to the Gang of Eight.”