(Bloomberg) -- The Justice Department will provide lawmakers more access to some secret documents detailing the government’s use of a confidential informant during a counterintelligence investigation into Russian contacts with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
The department appears to see an opportunity to go on the offensive and defend its probe after initial resistance to giving lawmakers access to investigative material. A briefing last month helped persuade key Republicans that Trump’s assertions that the FBI spied on his campaign for political reasons are incorrect.
The closed-door meeting, expected next week, will include officials from the Justice Department and the FBI briefing the Republican and Democratic "Gang of Eight" leaders from the House and Senate and the intelligence committees, a Justice Department official said. The documents won’t be shared with other lawmakers, said the official.
Plans for the meeting are drawing opposition from top House Intelligence Committee Democrat Adam Schiff of California, who said he opposes the government sharing sensitive investigative documents.
But Justice and FBI officials have been under pressure to address claims from Trump and others that they spied on his campaign for political reasons. They have been walking a tight-rope over what they can provide in terms of classified and other information about confidential sources, including potentially damaging those avenues of intelligence gathering.
House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina and others have said the agencies have been slow-walking or even defying Congress on the production of documents they are demanding.
What is known is that the FBI sent an informant to meet with at least three members of Trump’s campaign in 2016 after an offer was made that the Russian government could provide "dirt" on Hillary Clinton.
On Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said he had already been largely convinced during that previous May 24 briefing that the Justice Department and FBI had acted properly in its use of at least one confidential informant.
Ryan’s remarks during a news conference had followed earlier comments from Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, who is also a member of the Intelligence Committee, that he has seen no impropriety.
And a handful of other Republicans have echoed that. But not all agree.
Trump allies such as Meadows and Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio and others have said they don’t agree with Gowdy’s analysis. They say Gowdy has yet to read any of the documents that they expect would be needed to make such an assessment.
And some have reacted angrily to Ryan’s remarks. “It is shameful to see House Republican leadership emphasize support for FBI and DOJ intelligence collection on the Trump campaign," Judiciary Committee Republican Matt Gaetz of Florida said in a statement Thursday.
But Schiff said Thursday the Justice Department’s decision to share such sensitive documents with Congress is a mistake.
“This is all the more alarming when Republicans in Congress are requesting these materials not for legitimate oversight, but to obtain them for the president’s legal defense team," said Schiff, who would be among the leaders at the briefing.
Republican demands for information on possible spying on the Trump camp continued Thursday, with Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky taking on former CIA director John Brennan in a tweet.
Paul tweeted: "BIG question for John Brennan, who has become such a vocal spokesman. Did you receive any secret info on candidate Trump or his campaign from European or British intelligence sources? Brennan should be brought before Congress & made to testify under oath, NOW!”
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