WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday formally demanded that the Justice Department turn over two sets of classified documents related to its counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, setting up yet another potential showdown between GOP lawmakers and top law enforcement officials including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodblatte, R-Va., had publicly announced that he planned to subpoena memos from former FBI acting Director Andrew McCabe that reportedly detail Rosenstein’s offer to secretly record conversations with President Donald Trump. That request was formally issued Thursday.
But the subpoena also included two other requests that were previously met with strong resistance from the Justice Department. One is a demand for an internal document supporting the government’s application for a secret surveillance warrant against former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page. Known as the "Woods File," the document is produced by DOJ’s National Security Division and vets all assertions government lawyers plan to make before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
The other request is for highly sensitive materials previously provided only to the "Gang of Eight" — top congressional leaders and the leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees — related to confidential human sources that may have been part of the counterintelligence probe into potential coordination between Russia and Trump campaign officials.
"Review of these documents is essential to our investigation," Goodlatte said in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. "Given the Department’s ongoing delays and/or refusal to produce these documents, I am left with no choice but to issue the enclosed subpoena."
The latter two requests had been made previously by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif. After initial resistance from the Justice Department that prompted threats to hold top officials in contempt of Congress or even subject to impeachment, the Woods file was made available to Intelligence Committee staff for review at the Justice Department.
DOJ officials also met with the Gang of Eight at the Capitol in May and again in June to discuss issues related to the use of human sources in its investigation.
The new Judiciary Committee request would substantially grow the number of lawmakers with access to classified materials related to the probe now overseen by former FBI Director Robert Mueller.
The Judiciary Committee as well as the House Oversight Committee, with a combined membership of more than 80 members, have been probing aspects of the Justice Department’s handling of the Russia probe. And members include some of the most staunch Trump allies, including Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, who have called for Rosenstein to be impeached.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, issued a statement sharply criticizing Republicans as "the President’s enablers," who might "selectively leak and misrepresent the information" to undermine the Mueller probe.
"These materials contain highly sensitive law enforcement and national security information. Reckless disclosure could compromise important sources and methods, chill cooperation by other sources who assist U.S. law enforcement and the Intelligence Community in current and future investigations and intelligence collection, and erode the trust our international partners place in the United States," he said.
Trump was originally scheduled to meet with Rosenstein on Thursday to discuss his job status after The New York Times reported last week that Rosenstein, shortly after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, had suggested wearing a wire in meetings with the president, and the possibility of invoking the 25th amendment. The White House said that meeting would now take place next week.