Election security to take back seat at Mueller hearing
House Judiciary conservatives infuriated DOJ missed subpoena deadline
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee are infuriated by what they view as a stall by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in providing documents related to the panel's investigation into the FBI's decisionmaking during the 2016 presidential election, even under subpoena power.
Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who is leading a joint investigation with House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), issued a subpoena two weeks ago after conservatives on his panel grew increasingly impatient about what they claim was the DOJ dragging its feet in turning over the documents they've repeatedly requested.
The deadline for the subpoena was set for Thursday at noon.
Hours after the 12 p.m. deadline, multiple committee aides told The Hill that the panel had not received the documents they had requested.
"The Department of Justice has not yet complied with the subpoena and we are working with officials at DOJ to take immediate steps to comply with the subpoena and produce documents to the committee," a Republican House Judiciary Committee aide told The Hill.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a lawmaker who is eager to review the documents, called the lack of turnover "unacceptable."
"We got no documents from the Department of Justice. Just a phone call. This is unacceptable--it's time to stop the games. Turn over the documents to Congress and allow us to conduct oversight," Meadows tweeted.
GOP lawmakers are seeking documents that touch on a range of DOJ and FBI activity during the presidential election, including those related to the bureau's investigation into Hillary Clinton's handling of classified information while secretary of State, possible surveillance abuses and the details surrounding the recent decision to fire a top FBI official.
But conservatives on the House Judiciary Committee say they have only received about 3,000 out of the roughly 1.2 million documents they are seeking, a flashpoint that led members to begin criticizing Goodlatte's leadership on the matter last month.
One committee aide said the struggle over the records will continue until they receive the necessary documents for their investigation.
"Until DOJ gets serious about providing Congress the adequate resources to conduct real oversight, there will continue to be problems," one committee aide told The Hill.
DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores told The Hill the agency has had "ongoing communication with Goodlatte."
"He is aware of where his request stands," she said, declining to elaborate further on the details of the subpoena.
President Trump inserted himself in the matter on Monday, accusing the department and the FBI of "slow walking" its turn-over of documents to the committee.
"So sad that the Department of 'Justice' and the FBI are slow walking, or even not giving, the unredacted documents requested by Congress. An embarrassment to our country!" Trump tweeted.
His tweet came shortly after FBI Director Christopher Wray announced in a statement last week that the bureau would double the number of FBI personnel tackling Goodlatte's record requests.
The FBI chief emphasized that 54 staff members, working in two shifts that cover the period from 8 a.m. to midnight, would help "expedite" their efforts.
DOJ spokesman Ian Prior said in a statement at the time the subpoena was issued last month that officials are carefully combing page-by-page through the tranche of documents to redact sensitive case information.
He also pushed back on the breadth of the document request, saying the DOJ believes there are 30,000 documents relevant to the committee's inquiry and describing the 1.2 million document request as "substantial."
Lawmakers are eager to review over a million documents examined by the DOJ's inspector general, Michael Horowitz, who has separately been leading an investigation into the FBI's conduct during the election.
Horowitz's report, which is expected to be released this spring, touches on the conduct of now-ousted FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited the inspector general's findings that he made improper disclosures to the press when he fired the FBI official last month, just days before McCabe was set to retire.
McCabe has denied any wrongdoing and has claimed his firing was part of an effort to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, in which he is a possible witness, because of his ties to former FBI Director James Comey. Trump fired Comey - the top investigator leading the investigation into Russian interference at that time - last year, sparking a wave of controversy over his decision.
Goodlatte has also pushed for information surrounding conservative allegations of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuse relating to information used in warrants to monitor a former Trump campaign adviser as part of the Russia probe.
Democrats have called the Goodlatte-Gowdy probe a partisan distraction that aims to pull attention away from or even undermine special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.
When Goodlatte announced his plans to subpoena for documents, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y), the top Democrat on the Judiciary panel, criticized him for unilaterally issuing the subpoena as well as working to divert attention from the "chaos" surrounding the White House.