As Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) steps into his role as chair of the House Judiciary Committee, getting the ball rolling on long-awaited investigations, the Justice Department responded to information requests and accusations of “stonewalling” with a legalese equivalent of flipping the bird.
Throughout the 117th Congress when Republicans were in the minority, Jordan had fired off requests to various agencies including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Acknowledging those requests had been received, the DOJ’s Office of Legislative Affairs (OLA) responded on behalf of the various officials with a breakdown for the Ohio lawmaker on what they considered to be “good faith.”
Friday, Assistant Attorney General Carlos Felipe Uriarte wrote Jordan on behalf of OLA and the rest of the Justice Department, using it as a shield to inform him that all correspondence must be directed at them rather than agency directors to best “meet the informational needs of Congress while protecting the institutional interests of the Executive Branch.”
“Consistent with longstanding policy and practice, any oversight requests must be weighed against the Department’s interests in protecting the integrity of its work,” he stated.
“Longstanding Department policy prevents us from confirming or denying the existence of pending investigations in response to congressional requests or providing non-public information about our investigations,” Uriarte went on in the same letter that described them as the appropriate body to decide who would best stand as a witness for any hearings the Judiciary Committee aimed to have.
“The Department’s obligation to ‘protect the government’s ability to prosecute fully and fairly’ is vital to the Executive Branch’s core constitutional function to investigate and prosecute criminal matters,” he assured.
The letter was in direct response to Jordan’s messages sent on Jan. 17 to the likes of FBI Director Christopher Wray and other members of the executive branch where he contended, “This stonewalling must stop,” and “The Committee is prepared to resort to compulsory process, if necessary, to obtain this material.”
Jordan threatens Biden officials with subpoenas if they fail to comply with document requestshttps://t.co/WFEneqvOiG
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) January 18, 2023
Addressing those letters, Uriarte wrote, “Your January 17 requests — made now in your position as Chairman — initiate the constitutionally mandated accommodation process. Under this process, the Legislative and Executive Branches have a constitutional obligation to negotiate in good faith to meet the informational needs of Congress while protecting the institutional interests of the Executive Branch.”
“We believe that good-faith negotiations will enable us to meet the Committee’s needs while protecting the Department’s institutional interests,” he continued, after earlier invoking Republican President Ronald Reagan who, “explained in his 1982 directive on responding to congressional requests for information, the ‘tradition of accommodation’ should be ‘the primary means of resolving conflicts between the branches.'”
OLA’s efforts to bog down the Judiciary Committee in bureaucratic red tape, lamenting busy schedules, contending delays in responses stemmed from ensuring “accuracy and completeness of information,” demanding no less than two weeks advance notice and claiming “it may not always be possible to participate or to address all the topics the Committee wishes to raise,” appeared all the more to fit Jordan’s description of “stonewalling” following revelations that the Justice Department had made a deal with the White House to keep the FBI out of the investigation of classified documents discovered at President Joe Biden’s Delaware home and former think thank office.
“Instead, the two sides agreed that Mr. Biden’s personal attorneys would inspect the homes, notify the Justice Department as soon as they identified any other potentially classified records, and arrange for law-enforcement authorities to take them,” The Wall Street Journal had reported. “Those deliberations, which haven’t previously been reported, shed new light on how the Biden team’s efforts to cooperate with investigators have thus far helped it avoid more aggressive actions by law enforcement.”
“We hope this information is helpful,” Uriarte concluded, “and we look forward to a productive relationship.”
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