House GOP headed for showdown with DOJ over key documents

House GOP headed for showdown with DOJ over key documents
© Greg Nash

House Republicans are barreling toward a dramatic showdown with top law enforcement officials after GOP leaders vowed to take action against the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI if they fail to comply with a subpoena request by the end of this week.

While President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassroots America shows the people support Donald Trump Trump speaks to rebel Libyan general attacking Tripoli Dem lawmaker: Mueller report shows 'substantial body of evidence' on obstruction MORE’s allies in Congress have long called for DOJ officials to be impeached or held in contempt over the issue, this is the first time that Republican leadership has threatened to punish the department if it doesn't hand over documents more quickly.


According to Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyDemocrats put harassment allegations against Trump on back burner Democrats seize on Mueller-Barr friction 'Queer Eye' stars push for Equality Act MORE (R-S.C.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFEC filing: No individuals donated to indicted GOP rep this cycle The Hill's Morning Report - Waiting on Mueller: Answers come on Thursday Paul Ryan joins University of Notre Dame faculty MORE (R-Wis.) “made it very clear; there’s going to be action on the floor of the House this week if the FBI and DOJ do not comply with our subpoena request."

“We’re going to get compliance, or the House of Representatives is going to use its full arsenal of constitutional weapons to gain compliance," Gowdy added, speaking to Fox News on Sunday.

“We will expect to see things from them this week or the heat is going to continue to be turned up,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteTop Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview It’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling MORE (R-Va.) on Monday.

The new warning shot comes on the heels of a scathing report from the Justice Department's inspector general (IG), released last week, that criticized the FBI’s actions during the 2016 presidential race. The findings prompted a number of top Republicans to call on special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE to wrap up his investigation into Russia's interference in the election and Moscow's possible ties to the Trump campaign.

“If this was in a court of law, they would throw this case out. I think the Mueller investigation has got to stop,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyWatchdog: Custodial staff alleged sexual harassment in lawmakers' offices John Legend, Chrissy Teigen lash out at Trump at Dem retreat Republicans call for ex-Trump lawyer Cohen to be referred to DOJ MORE (R-Calif.) said last week.

“They ought to wrap it up,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Overnight Health Care: McConnell offering bill to raise tobacco-buying age to 21 | NC gov vetoes 'born alive' abortion bill | CMS backs off controversial abortion proposal HR 1 brings successful local, state reforms to the federal level and deserves passage MORE (R-Ky.).

Ryan and key GOP lawmakers met Friday night with senior law enforcement officials, including Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinNew normal: A president can freely interfere with investigations without going to jail Ex-federal prosecutor: Mueller report offers 'knock down case for obstruction' for anyone but Trump Elijah Cummings: 'I am begging the American people to pay attention to what's going on' MORE and FBI Director Christopher Wray, to discuss a stalled congressional request for documents.

Conservatives have been seeking information related to the FBI’s investigation into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassroots America shows the people support Donald Trump Ex-FBI official: 'Links and coordination' with Russia happen everyday Ex-FBI agent: Americans should be 'disgusted' by Russian interference in Mueller report MORE’s use of a private email server, as well as the bureau's decisionmaking during its initial investigation into the Trump campaign.

Ryan made clear during the meeting that the DOJ will face consequences from the House if officials don’t fully comply with the subpoena request, though he did not specify which steps the House would take, according to a source familiar with the discussion.

If it came to that point, however, action would likely not occur until next week.

“They know they’ve been put on notice,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesTen post-Mueller questions that could turn the tables on Russia collusion investigators Schiff, Nunes pressed DOJ for Mueller briefing The Hill's Morning Report - Mueller report will dominate this week MORE (R-Calif.) told Fox News. “The deadline is this week, so if documents do not begin to be turned over [Monday] and a clear way and path forward for everything else is not clear here in the next couple days, there's going to be hell to pay.”

Up until this point, Republican leaders have largely been silent on the calls from leading conservatives to impeach Rosenstein or hold him in contempt of Congress — a move that would fire up the GOP base, but could also turn off moderate and independent voters in the midterm elections.

But with Republicans growing increasingly impatient with the ongoing Russia probe — and poll numbers showing waning public support for the investigation — leadership has largely sided with conservatives in their heated feud with the department over documents.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Mueller report poses new test for Dems Washington in frenzy over release of Mueller report MORE (R-N.C.), who introduced a resolution last Wednesday that would force the Justice Department to hand over key documents, said he and a few other members met with Ryan last Tuesday to express their frustration with the DOJ.

“I applaud the Speaker and his resolve to hold the DOJ accountable for document production,” Meadows told The Hill. “They will either fully comply, or there will be floor action.”

“All constitutional options are on the table,” he added, but “hopefully it can be avoided.”

For months, Republicans have been fighting for access to a wide range of classified documents.

Goodlatte has pushed for details on how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was used in warrants to monitor a former Trump campaign adviser as part of the Russia probe, while Nunes has reportedly sought information surrounding the FBI’s use of a confidential informant who had contacts with the campaign.

But conservatives have complained that the DOJ is not being cooperative and has slow-walked their requests for information.

Democrats say Trump’s allies are just trying to lay the groundwork to fire Rosenstein in the hopes of undermining the entire Russia probe.

And the DOJ has repeatedly pointed out that it has already turned over thousands of documents to the congressional committees. The department has also made space available at the DOJ to allow committee staff to come view hundreds of thousands of unredacted documents while the department works through the rest of the request.

While Goodlatte praised the availability of the unredacted documents at the DOJ, he said many still need to be handed over. The GOP chairman also said that there are other items that have yet to be resolved, but his office did not return a request to elaborate further.

“Substantial portions have been complied with. ... But they’re not producing fast enough,” Goodlatte said Monday. “Several other items separately are not being complied with.”

The latest back and forth comes in the wake of the bombshell IG report, which slammed former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyDem lawmaker: Mueller report shows 'substantial body of evidence' on obstruction Mueller's done, and Dems should be too — because Trump is no Nixon Time for Democrats to accept reality MORE and other top brass for how they handled the investigation into Clinton’s private email server.

The findings, released last Thursday, revealed damning anti-Trump private messages sent between FBI agent Peter Strzok, who was briefly on the special counsel team, and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page. The report also mentions anti-Trump messages sent by three other unnamed FBI employees.

Lawmakers were preparing to subpoena Strzok, but Strzok’s lawyer announced Sunday that he’d make himself available to testify.

Even though the inspector general ultimately found that no political bias influenced the conclusions in the Clinton probe, many Republicans have seized on the report, which they say does in fact show evidence of political bias at the bureau.

Meadows also raised concern that congressional investigators hadn’t seen some of the details contained in the report, such as the messages between Strzok and Page.

While Meadows said the IG report is not related to their subpoena request, he said the findings have only escalated the tensions between the GOP and the DOJ.

“The information that was shared with the IG but not Congress exacerbates the frustration,” he said, “and gives members of Congress greater concern about the DOJ and FBI’s obstructionism.”