The Justice Department has provided House lawmakers with access to a two-page document that the FBI used as the basis for initiating its original counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
All members of the House Intelligence Committee received access to the document, a Justice Department official confirmed to The Hill on Wednesday.
Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) had requested access
to the unredacted document, complaining that previous “heavily” redacted versions were not adequate for committee Republicans’ investigation into alleged abuses at the Justice Department.
According to Nunes, he and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Wednesday afternoon — one day after Nunes threatened to hold both Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt and initiate impeachment proceedings against them if they did not comply with the request for the unredacted document.
“During the meeting, we were finally given access to a version of the [electronic communication] that contained the information necessary to advance the Committee’s ongoing investigation of the Department of Justice and FBI,” Nunes said in a statement.
“Although the subpoenas issued by this Committee in August 2017 remain in effect, I’d like to thank Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein for his cooperation today,” he added.
According to a Justice Department official, the remaining redactions in the document are “narrowly tailored to protect the name of a foreign country and the name of a foreign agent.” Specifics have been replaced with identifiers like “foreign official” and “foreign government,” the official said.
“These words must remain redacted after determining that revealing the words could harm the national security of the American people by undermining the trust we have with this foreign nation,” the official continued, adding that they appear “only a limited number of times, and do not obstruct the underlying meaning of the document.”
A handful of conservatives are investigating what they say is evidence that the department’s decisionmaking during the 2016 election was riddled with bias — allegations that Democrats see as a transparent effort to muddy the waters around special counsel Robert Mueller or provide a pretext to shut him down.
Nunes told Fox’s Laura Ingraham that the document will confirm why the FBI opened its original investigation into the Trump campaign.
The New York Times reported in December that the federal probe — now in the hands of Mueller — was initiated after the FBI received a tip that Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had claimed to an Australian diplomat that he had dirt on Hillary Clinton.
A memo authored by staff for Nunes that was declassified in February affirmed that the bureau opened the probe after receiving the tip regarding Papadopoulos.
But on Tuesday, Nunes appeared to cast doubt on that narrative.
“We haven’t been able to see the [electronic communication] to confirm that,” Nunes told Fox, referring to the two-page document that he viewed Wednesday.
The revelation about Papadopoulos’s role ran counter to claims by some Republicans that the FBI used information from an unverified dossier of opposition research into President Trump that was partially funded by Clinton and the Democratic National Committee to open the probe.
That document — known as a the “Steele dossier” after its principle author, former MI6 agent Christopher Steele — made a series of allegations about the business mogul’s ties to Moscow. Trump, who has repeatedly blasted the Russia probe as a “witch hunt,” has also described the dossier as fiction and its role in the federal investigation has become a flashpoint on the right.
While Rosenstein’s willingness to let Nunes view the document appears to have succeeded in keeping the peace for now, Republican lawmakers on a separate committee are also fuming at what they say is a department foot-dragging on many of their attempts to obtain and review records.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a House Judiciary Committee member, said that if his panel does not receive the documents they’ve requested as part of his panel’s investigation into FBI decisionmaking during the election, then all options are on the table.
“Our patience has run out because the American people’s patience have run out so I think if they don’t change things in a dramatic fashion in a short period of time — I’m talking days, not weeks or months — then I think everything is on the table,” Jordan told The Hill on Wednesday.
He said this includes contempt and impeachment proceedings as well as calling for resignations.
Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, defended the two officials after Nunes publicly voiced his impeachment threat.
“Both Rosenstein and Wray have already made available to the Intelligence Committee scores of highly sensitive documents related to ongoing investigations — including Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications — the details of which the majority proceeded to disclose in a deliberately misleading manner which the department rightly called ‘extraordinarily reckless,’ ” Schiff said in a statement.
“The chairman’s rhetoric is a shocking and irresponsible escalation of the GOP’s attacks on the FBI and [Department of Justice],” he added, saying it is intended to undermine Mueller’s probe.
Updated at 9:51 p.m.