House intel sets hearing amid friction with DOJ on Russia

House intel sets hearing amid friction with DOJ on Russia

The House Intelligence Committee has scheduled an open hearing on Thursday amid escalating demands from Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) that the Justice Department turn over documents related to a controversial dossier linking President Trump to Russia.

The Thursday hearing, which the committee has not yet publicly announced, is scheduled to cover “document production.”

Nunes in August issued two identical subpoenas to the Justice Department and the FBI demanding that the agencies hand over documents containing information about the dossier and the bureau’s relationship to its author, a former British spy named Christopher Steele.

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But the administration has now missed both the original deadline and an extended deadline granted by Nunes that expired on Sept. 14, setting up a potential showdown with Trump's Justice Department. The California Republican warned in a Sept. 1 letter to Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPress: Why does Scott Pruitt still have a job? DOJ announces M grant to cover costs associated with Parkland shooting ‘Morning Joe’ host: Trump tweeting during Barbara Bush funeral ‘insulting’ to US MORE reported by CNN that the revised deadline would not be extended.

Nunes threatened in that letter to drag Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray before the committee for a public appearance “to explain under oath DOJ’s and FBI’s unwillingness or inability to comply in full with the subpoenas issued on August 24.”

Spokesmen for Nunes and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The validity of the so-called Steele dossier has been the subject of fierce interest in the various Capitol Hill investigations into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. Some Republican lawmakers have zeroed in on its compendium of unverified allegations as the basis for the furor over Trump and Russia.

The 35-page document, filled with incendiary allegations about the president, was produced as opposition research into then-candidate Trump and has yet to be independently confirmed.

House Democrats have pushed back against the subpoenas, which Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOvernight Defense: Trump steps up fight with California over guard deployment | Heitkamp is first Dem to back Pompeo for State | Dems question legality of Syria strikes Top Dems demand answers from Trump over legality of Syria strikes New York seeks authority to prosecute despite presidential pardons MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, says were issued without first making the request voluntary in written form to agencies.

“What we should be most concerned about is whether those sources of the information in the report are true, not in discrediting the author of that report,” Schiff told MSNBC at the time.

Nunes has stepped aside from leading the House panel’s investigation into Trump and Russia but has remained involved behind the scenes and is running a parallel investigation into "unmasking," a commonly used surveillance procedure that has been swept up in the debate over Russian interference.

The practice of unmasking involves revealing information about Americans incidentally caught in surveillance in order to better understand intelligence.

The White House has also failed to respond to bipartisan committee requests for records related to the panel’s Russia probe, drawing Democratic ire.

“The White House’s refusal to answer Congress in full and truthfully raises serious questions about the White House’s intent, including the potential that it is misleading Congress,” Schiff told CNN in an email on Saturday.

“The White House must fully comply immediately; if it does not, the Committee should, on a bipartisan basis, subpoena the records.”