Nunes Picks A New Fight With DOJ Over Russia Probe

UNITED STATES - APRIL 12: Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., speaks at a "Countdown to Tax Day" news conference in the Capitol to address the tax in increases in President Obama's FY 2014 budget. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Group

In his latest round of anti-FBI shenanigans, House Intel Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) is threatening legal action against the Justice Department for refusing to show him unredacted versions of materials documenting the launch of the FBI’s Russia probe.

In an April 4 letter sent to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (who’s overseeing the investigation because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself) and FBI Director Christopher Wray, Nunes accuses the Justice Department of “arbitrary resistance to legitimate oversight.”‘

“Be advised that failure to comply in a satisfactory manner will result in the Committee pursuing all appropriate legal remedies, including seeking civil enforcement of the August 24 subpoenas in federal district court,” Nunes’ letter said.

The letter was first reported by the Washington Examiner’s Byron York. Sara Carter, a Fox News contributor, posted a full copy of the letter on her personal website.

Nunes is seeking an unredacted version of a document known as an electronic communication “related to the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign.” The document falls under subpoenas issued by the committee in August, Nunes said, and his committee has only been able to view “heavily redacted” versions of the electronic communication.

Democrats have accused Nunes of neglecting the committee’s investigation into Russian election meddling — which House Intel Republicans are in the process of wrapping up, over Democrats’ objections — in favor of protecting President Trump and undermining the federal probe, now being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Nunes’ previous obsessions focused on the Christopher Steele dossier, the collection of Russia-Trump allegations put together by an ex-British spy as part of a research project financed by Democrats. Nunes was successful in a court battle over whether the committee could obtain the bank records of the private intelligence firm that oversaw the Steele’s research.

More recently, Nunes’ staff wrote a memo alleging the FBI had misled a surveillance court in seeking a surveillance warrant on ex-Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page, by not informing the court that Steele, one of FBI sources, was being funded by Democrats.

Trump OKed the release of the classified memo over the DOJ’s objections. Many of the claims in that memo were quickly debunked.

The memo did concede that the FBI’s Russia probe was launched not by Steele, but by George Papadopoulos, whom, as the New York Times reported, told an Australian diplomat in London in the summer of 2016 that the Russians had dirt on Clinton. Papadopoulos, who served as a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is now cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.

Nunes’ latest letter is also still seeking more information about Page’s surveillance warrants. He initially made Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), another House Intel Republican, his designee to see an unredacted version as his staff worked on their memo. He would like other committee members to be allowed to view unredacted versions of the warrants, his letter said.

Nunes did not respond to TPM’s request for comment. The Justice Department declined to comment. The FBI sent the following statement:

“The FBI received the referenced letter from Chairman Nunes, and we are reviewing it to determine next steps.  As a general matter, before FBI records may be released outside the FBI, to include to Congressional committees, they must first undergo our standard review and redaction process to ensure that statutorily restricted information (such as grand jury material), classified material, sensitive law enforcement material, and other privileged material is not improperly disclosed.”

Update: This story has been updated to include response from the FBI.

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