The FBI and Justice Department are overdue for a reckoning.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., threatened the Department of Justice and FBI on Saturday night with a threat to hold both agencies in contempt of Congress for hiding details concerning the removal of a top FBI agent from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling.
The censure came amid a bombshell Washington Post report on Saturday that Mueller dismissed FBI agent Peter Strzok from his team after the Justice Department’s Inspector General unearthed anti-Trump text messages between Strzok and his mistress, attorney Lisa Page–who worked for FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and also served on the Mueller probe.
The discovery of the extramarital affair and the biased text messages took place over the summer. Strzok–who interviewed Hillary Clinton in 2016 and was a leading agent on the Trump-Russia collusion probe–was not only removed from the Mueller investigation, but demoted to the FBI’s human resources department.
The House Intelligence Committee has been requesting information on the incident since August 24, when it issued a subpoena that requested the reason for Strzok’s removal, Washington Examiner reports.
Nunes rebuked the FBI and Justice Department for “hiding” the biases of the agents who worked in the Mueller probe.
“By hiding from Congress, and from the American people, documented political bias by a key FBI head investigator for both the Russia collusion probe and the Clinton email investigation, the FBI and DOJ engaged in a willful attempt to thwart Congress’ constitutional oversight responsibility,” Nunes said in a statement.
He went on to say:
“This is part of a months-long pattern by the DOJ and FBI of stonewalling and obstructing this committee’s oversight work, particularly oversight of their use of the Steele dossier. At this point, these agencies should be investigating themselves.”
Nunes claimed the Justice Department attempted to reach out suddenly with a willingness to provide the long-requested information.
“The DOJ has now expressed — on a Saturday, just hours after the press reports on Strzok’s dismissal appeared — a sudden willingness to comply with some of the committee’s long-standing demands
“This attempted 11th-hour accommodation is neither credible nor believable, and in fact is yet another example of the DOJ’s disingenuousness and obstruction.”
In response, Nunes instructed committee staff to draft a contempt citation for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
The Department of Justice issued this response statement.
“We disagree with the Chairman’s characterization and will continue to work with congressional committees to provide the information they request consistent with our national security responsibilities. The Department has already provided members of [the House Intelligence Committee] and House leadership with several hundred pages of classified documents and multiple briefings — including for example clear answers as to whether any FBI payments were made to a source in question related to the dossier — and has more recently cleared key witnesses they have requested to testify, including Mr. McCabe, Mr. Strzok, and the alleged handler in question.”
Nunes’ decision suggests Congress may become more willing to take action to reign in the Mueller investigation.
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