Trump Nudges FBI, Justice Department Over Documents Owed to Congress

By Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.
June 25, 2018 Updated: October 5, 2018

President Donald Trump called out the FBI and the Justice Department (DOJ) for slow-walking responses to document requests from Congress overseers.

“I have tried to stay uninvolved with the Department of Justice and FBI (although I do not legally have to), because of the now totally discredited and very expensive Witch Hunt currently going on. But you do have to ask why the DOJ & FBI aren’t giving over requested documents?” Trump wrote in a June 25 tweet.

The House judiciary and intelligence committees have requested that the DOJ and FBI hand over more than a million documents related to the FBI’s Clinton email investigation and spying on Trump’s presidential campaign.

The FBI and DOJ have provided some of the documents, but hundreds of thousands are still missing. Trump said in May that if the FBI and DOJ were to fail to respond to the document requests, he would have “no choice but to use the powers granted to the Presidency and get involved.”

Last week, the DOJ provided 1,400 documents related to FBI and DOJ officials’ requests to look at surveillance records of Trump’s campaign or his administration. But that only came after House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), according to Fox News, threatened the DOJ and FBI with contempt of Congress—a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

“There’s going to be action on the floor of the House this week if FBI and DOJ do not comply with our subpoena request,” Ryan warned, according to Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reportedly tried to push back against the contempt threat with one of his own, saying he’d subpoena emails and phone records of lawmakers on the intelligence committee and their staffers. One of the staff members, in an email obtained by Fox News, characterized the threat as “downright chilling.”

A DOJ official acknowledged the subpoena threat to Fox News, but said it was meant as a defensive move against the threat of contempt.

At least two staffers reported the matter to the House Office of General Counsel. Rosenstein, in return, reported the staffers to the office, too.

Ryan’s spokesperson acknowledged that his colleagues had received the 1,400 documents, but she also pointed to the missing ones.

“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,” the spokesperson, AshLee Strong, told The Associated Press on June 23. “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.”

House Freedom Caucus chair Mark Meadows (R-S.C.) slammed the progress as being inadequate.

“This represents less than 3 percent of the potential universe of documents for that section,” he said. “Based on the current production rate, it would take them 1 1/2 years to comply.”

The lawmakers requested several sections of documents, including documents on the investigation of Hillary Clinton for her mishandling of classified information and documents regarding spying on people connected to the Clinton Foundation, a charity investigated by the FBI for alleged pay-for-play schemes involving political favors from Clinton during her tenure as state secretary (2009–2013).

Another section involves documents regarding the FBI’s spying on the Trump campaign.

The FBI ran an extensive spying operation against the campaign, and Republican lawmakers suspect it was started for political purposes.

Based on leaks to The New York Times, the FBI started probing alleged links between the Trump campaign and Russia on July 31, 2016, after Australians had passed intelligence to the FBI earlier that month about a drunken conversation between volunteer Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and the top Australian diplomat in Britain, Alexander Downer.

Downer said Papadopoulos told him that the Russians had information damaging to Clinton.

But that story fell apart with the revelation that an FBI informant, Stefan Halper, was already snooping on the Trump campaign.

Moreover, the man who was supposed to tell Papadopoulos about the “dirt” on Clinton had extensive ties to Western intelligence.

Also, evidence so far obtained by Congress suggests that the FBI initiated an offensive counterintelligence operation against the Trump campaign as early as December 2015.

A group of congressmen has already demanded a criminal investigation of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former FBI Director James Comey, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, and former Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente over their roles in surveillance of Trump campaign volunteer adviser Carter Page.

The officials intentionally withheld from the FISA Court that the warrant application to spy on Page heavily relied on the now infamous Steele dossier, according to a memo by the Republican majority of the House intelligence committee.

The dossier was put together by Christopher Steele, a former MI6 British intelligence agent, using second- and third-hand sources close to the Kremlin. The dossier was characterized as “salacious and unverified” by Comey.

Steele was paid for this work by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

Trump has repeatedly called the FBI’s investigation of his campaign a “witch hunt.”

Update: The article was updated to clarify the nature of the information Alexander Downer said was mentioned by George Papadopoulos.

Watch Next:

Before the year 2000, organ transplantation in China was a relatively niche medical treatment.

Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.