Nunes and Justice Department Reach Deal on Russia Investigation Docs

Agreement would allow House Intelligence Committee access to 'all documents and witnesses' it has requested

House Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes / Getty Images
January 4, 2018

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes announced late Wednesday night that the panel and the Justice Department had reached a deal to gain access to all the documents and witnesses related to the Russia investigation it has been seeking for months.

The California Republican had threatened to hold top Justice Department and FBI officials in contempt of Congress if they didn't produce documents related to top agents' alleged bias against President Donald Trump by Jan. 3.

As of 5 p.m. the committee still had yet to hear from the Justice Department, according to a knowledgeable congressional source.

Nunes then issued a statement shortly after 10 p.m. that he had spoken to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that evening and he believed the Justice Department "will provide the committee with access to all of the documents and witnesses we have requested."

"The committee looks forward to receiving access to the documents in the coming days," he added.

Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray had spent the late afternoon meeting with Speaker Paul Ryan, (R., Wis.) but declined to disclose the topic of their discussions to reporters afterward.

Nunes has been seeking answers on why FBI agent Peter Strzok was removed from the investigative team working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller on the Russia investigation of alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Stzrok has served as a lead investigator on the probe into then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server. He was removed after the Justice Department inspector general uncovered texts between he and another FBI employee, Lisa Page, who was also removed from Mueller's team. They lambasted Trump as a "loathsome man" and mentioned the prospects of an "insurance policy" against a Trump presidency.

That "insurance policy" conversation also referred to the potential of Strzok working for "Andy," a reference some GOP lawmakers believe to be Andrew McCabe, the FBI's deputy director.

McCabe is under scrutiny for playing a key role in the Clinton email investigation even though his wife received $700,000 from Virginia Democrats when she was running for statewide office. That sum includes nearly $500,000 from a political committee affiliated with Virginia's Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a close friend of the Clintons who served on the board of the Clinton Global Initiative.

McCabe failed to recuse himself from the Clinton email probe until one week before the presidential election last year.

Another text referenced a second phone Strzok and Page used to "talk about Hillary because it can't be traced."

That text was sent just days before Strzok interviewed Clinton aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills in the FBI investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server.

The same week, news broke that six of the 15 lawyers working on Mueller's Russia probe and made contributions to political campaigns at the federal level. Of those contributions, a total of $62,043 went to Democrats and $2,750 went to Republicans, according to the special counsel’s office.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) is also seeking information related to the alleged anti-Trump bias of top Justice and FBI officials.

Rosenstein in mid-December defended Mueller and pushed back at claims that investigators on the Russia probe have acted with bias.

Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, Rosenstein said he believed Mueller is leading his office "appropriately."

"I think it's important to recognize that when we talk about political affiliation … the issue of bias is something different," he said, adding that he and Mueller "recognize we have employees with political opinions. It's our responsibility to make sure those opinions do not influence their actions."

Earlier that week, Trump tweeted that he believed the FBI's reputation was "in tatters" and the "worst in History."

Rosenstein refuted the statement, noting that he has expressed concern with "certain aspects of certain things done by the FBI," but "in general throughout my experience working with FBI agents over the decades, I found them to be an exceptional group of public servants, very loyal, faithful and dedicated, and I believe some of the finest people that I know are agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation."