Trump’s House Allies Keep Up Their Offensive on Justice Department, FBI
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s staunchest allies in the House are intensifying their scrutiny of alleged misdeeds by the Justice Department and FBI, undaunted by criminal convictions this week of two former Trump aides and the potential for other developing investigations.
Closed-door interviews Friday and next week are set with at least three current and former FBI and Justice Department officials by the House Oversight and Judiciary committees, mirroring the sentiment of Trump’s own tweet Friday urging Attorney General Jeff Sessions to "look into all of the corruption on the ‘other side.”’
Judiciary Committee member Jim Jordan said in an interview that a key issue remains the extent of federal law enforcement use of political opposition-research paid for by the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton to "spy" on the Trump campaign. Trump has repeatedly alleged that effort is what eventually led to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe and other investigations.
"That’s the real story," he said.
While GOP congressional leaders have largely avoided commenting on the guilty plea of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and the conviction of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on Tuesday, Jordan and other Trump-stalwarts on Capitol Hill have reacted by following the president’s lead in trying to turn the focus to Clinton and the Democrats.
One target in their sights is Justice Department official Bruce Ohr. Trump has repeatedly criticized Ohr because his wife worked for Fusion GPS, a company Democrats hired to conduct research on Trump.
House Republicans have wanted to interview Ohr for months. But interest in him has intensified after revelations last month that he had maintained contact with Christopher Steele, the author of an unverified and salacious dossier on Trump, even after the FBI had severed it ties with the former British spy for leaking information to the media.
"We have emails showing Bruce Ohr and Chris Steele, Clinton-paid dossier author, were frequently communicating. Ohr was getting info from Steele long after the FBI claimed Steele was formally ‘terminated’ as a source. They had 60+ contacts," Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina tweeted this week.
The planned closed-door interview of Ohr by lawmakers is set for Tuesday, and is just one of several depositions to be taken from former of current FBI or Justice officials within the next week.
FBI official Jonathan Moffa is scheduled to be interviewed on Friday, in part about his knowledge of any coordination between the Obama administration Justice Department and FBI during a critical period of the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server probe.
Meadows and others have claimed investigators were biased against Trump, in favor of Clinton, and say the FBI’s decision not to refer Clinton for prosecution to the Justice Department was not as independent a decision as claimed.
Former FBI Director James Comey testified to Congress he didn’t consult with the Justice Department about his public recommendation in July 2016 to not pursue charges against Clinton. But Meadows has pointed to a June 20, 2016, communication addressed from a Justice Department National Security Division official to both Moffa and then-FBI agent Peter Strzok suggesting language for “articulating" the findings of the investigation.
Meadows on Thursday identified Moffa as a Strzok "boss."
The two committees also plan to privately interview former top FBI lawyer James Baker on Aug. 30. Baker left the FBI in May, after having been reassigned in December from being head of the agency’s Office of General Counsel by then-new FBI director, Christopher Wray.
Baker had been one of Comey’s closest confidantes during the period Comey oversaw the politically-combustible Clinton email probe and scrutiny of potential Russian contacts with Trump’s campaign. Before leaving the bureau, Baker was investigated by the Justice Department on suspicion of sharing classified information with reporters. He wasn’t charged.
Representative Gerald Connolly of Virginia, the top Democrat on the House Oversight subcommittee on Government Reform, said in an interview that the real aim of the GOP efforts is to undermine or distract from Mueller’s probe.
”Essentially, these Republicans under Trump have completely given up even the pretense of government oversight," he said. "There is cabinet member greed and self aggrandizement -- ethics issues and conflicts of interest." But he said, "We’re not having hearings and in-depth investigations, on these or other concerns."
Jordan said the focus on the FBI and Justice Department is important -- and important to constituents, he says.
"What I am hearing from constituents is they want to keep digging," said Jordan.
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