Chaffetz doubles down on request for FBI memos

Chaffetz doubles down on request for FBI memos
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The chairman of the House Oversight Committee doubled down Thursday on his call for the FBI to produce documents related to fired FBI Director James Comey's interactions with White House officials, after the bureau rejected his initial request.

"Congress does not conduct criminal or counterintelligence investigations; rather Congress's power of inquiry is rooted in part in its duty to oversee the Executive Branch's faithful enforcement of the laws that Congress enacted," Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzHouse Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke GOP senators decline to criticize Acosta after new Epstein charges MORE (R-Utah) wrote in a letter to acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

"In this case, the focus of the Committee's investigation is the independence of the FBI, including conversations between the President and Comey and the process by which Comey was removed from his role as director," added Chaffetz, who will leave the House at the end of next month.

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Chaffetz and the Oversight Committee's top Democrat, Elijah Cummings (Md.), had first requested the records last week, setting a May 24 deadline for the FBI to produce them.

But the agency ultimately blew past that deadline, prompting the Thursday followup.

In a Thursday letter to Chaffetz, Gregory Brower, the assistant director for the FBI's Office of Congressional Affairs, said the bureau would not comply because of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's appointment last week of special counsel. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller will oversee the law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between President Trump's campaign and Russia.

But in his letter to McCabe responding to the refusal, Chaffetz argued that Mueller's special counsel appointment should not interfere with congressional investigations into Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 election. 

"In recognition of our mutual interest in avoiding any actions that would jeopardize either the Special Counsel's investigation or Congress's investigation, and in response to Rosenstein's request, I am seeking to better understand Corney's communications with the White House and Attorney General in such a way that does not implicate the Special Counsel's work," he wrote.

Still, Chaffetz's letter significantly narrowed the scope of his committee's records request, asking only for "documents that are outside the scope of the Special Counsel's investigation" and seeking records going back to Sept. 4, 2013 — a far shorter timeframe than the initial request.

Internal FBI memos, particularly those authored by Comey, became the subject of intense interest by congressional investigators last week amid reports that Trump had asked Comey in February to drop his bureau's investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The letter sets a June 8 deadline for the FBI to provide the requested records.

That episode was reportedly detailed in a memo prepared by Comey shortly afterward, and some congressional investigators have said that similar memos could provide insight into the former FBI director's fraught relationship with Trump and the reason for his abrupt firing earlier this month.

"The records being withheld are central to those questions, even more so in light of Comey's decision not to testify before the Committee at this time," Chaffetz wrote.