House passes measure demanding DOJ documents
The House on Thursday passed a resolution demanding the Department of Justice (DOJ) hand over sensitive documents, in the process delivering a final warning shot to senior officials before conservatives move ahead with more aggressive action against the department.
In a 226-183 vote, lawmakers approved the messaging measure, which calls on the DOJ to turn over all of the documents House Republicans have requested related to the FBI’s handling of investigations during the 2016 presidential election.
The party-line vote, with one Republican voting present, puts the entire conference on the record in the escalating feud between the DOJ and House Republicans, who have been fighting for months for access to a trove of highly sensitive documents.
While the resolution is not enforceable, Republicans say they wanted to send a clear message to the DOJ and are vowing to impeach or hold senior officials in contempt of Congress if they don’t comply with their document request.
The vote comes the same day that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray are testifying in front of the House Judiciary Committee, where Republicans are expected to grill the senior officials.
The resolution will likely serve as red meat for the GOP base as lawmakers head back to their districts for a weeklong recess following two failed votes on immigration over the past two weeks.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was initially reluctant to wade into the ongoing feud, but earlier this month he gave the DOJ a deadline of last Friday to comply with a subpoena request for documents, telling senior officials that the House would take action if progress was not made.
GOP leadership, however, said over the weekend that the agency has been making reasonable progress in turning over thousands of documents in response to congressional requests.
But the authors of the resolution — House Freedom Caucus leaders Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — are unsatisfied with the pace of progress and have criticized the FBI for slow-walking their request.
“Enough is enough. Give us the documents we are entitled to have,” Jordan said on the House floor. “Let’s have the full weight of the House behind a resolution saying you’ve got seven days to get your act together.”
Conservatives are seeking information from the agency on court-approved counterintelligence surveillance of Trump campaign aide Carter Page and the use of a confidential informant in the early days of the Russia investigation, among other things.
Ryan earlier this week did not take contempt off the table, but told reporters that he expects all of the requests to be honored “very, very soon.”
“We do expect full compliance very, very soon, and if we do not get that then we will keep every single option available to us,” he said.
Democrats, however, say the GOP’s resolution is aimed at laying the groundwork for President Trump to fire Rosenstein and undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The DOJ has also pointed out that it already produced thousands of documents and has even made a special space available in the department to allow congressional staff to come view unredacted documents while they work the rest request.
“This resolution is wrong on the facts, wrong on the law, wrong on the rules, and a dangerous precedent for the House of Representatives,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), ranking member on House Judiciary Committee.