House Republicans Threaten Floor Action Over FBI, DOJ Subpoenas

(Bloomberg) -- House Republicans say Speaker Paul Ryan has agreed to take floor action if the Justice Department and FBI continue to withhold documents demanded by lawmakers on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails and the early stages of the probe into Russia meddling in the 2016 campaign.

“There are a number of members, including the speaker, that believe we have been waiting far too long for documents,” Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, head of the House subcommittee on government operations and a prominent ally of President Donald Trump, told Bloomberg News on Sunday. “This week is the last chance for the benefit of the doubt to be given to DOJ. Excuses will not work any longer.”

Meadows commented after House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy said on “Fox News Sunday” that “Paul made it very clear” at a meeting Friday with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that action by the full House is coming if the issue isn’t resolved.

Other Republicans have said actions could range from a “sense of Congress” resolution to citing officials for contempt of Congress or even impeaching them. Ryan’s office had no comment.

The Republicans have said they aren’t satisfied by a plan to let only certain House and Senate leaders review some of the material, including details about an FBI informant who contacted members of Trump’s 2016 campaign to explore their ties with Russians and applications and communications with the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

On Firing Rosenstein

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that Trump should order Rosenstein to comply “with every subpoena of documents and witnesses to Capitol Hill” within 48 hours or face firing. Rosenstein oversees Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, so firing him could set the stage for reining in or firing Mueller.

While the documents sought by House Republicans predate Mueller’s appointment, some of them say anti-Trump sentiment in the FBI and Justice Department has tainted his inquiry into the Russian meddling, whether anyone close to Trump colluded in it and whether Trump obstructed justice. Pursuing that theme, Trump’s attorney said on Sunday that the Justice Department should investigate Mueller’s investigation.

“We want the Mueller probe to be investigated the way the Trump administration has been investigated, and we’d like to see a report with the conclusions,” Rudy Giuliani said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Last week’s release of a report by the Justice Department’s inspector general on accusations of misconduct at the FBI has created fresh fodder for attempts to undercut Mueller’s probe.

Trump’s Tweet

“WITCH HUNT,” Trump said Sunday on Twitter. “There was no Russian Collusion. Oh, I see, there was no Russian Collusion, so now they look for obstruction on the no Russian Collusion.”

The 500-page report from the inspector general focused on decisions by former FBI Director James Comey in the 2016 investigation into Clinton’s email server -- well before Trump fired Comey and Mueller was named to take over the separate inquiry.

Democrats have said the report provided no grounds to undercut Mueller’s continuing investigation. “Though FBI leadership made errors in judgment in the run-up to the election, those actions were not influenced by any political bias and, if anything, helped Donald Trump’s candidacy,” Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said last week.

The findings by Inspector General Michael Horowitz are likely to generate sharp partisan debate when he appears before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Monday, and then a joint hearing by the House Judiciary and the Oversight and Government Reform panels on Tuesday.

Giuliani also has indicated a decision also could come in the week ahead in on whether Trump will agree to be interviewed by Mueller’s team voluntarily. If not, Mueller could issue a grand jury subpoena that Trump’s lawyers could resist in a fight that could go all the way to the Supreme Court.

Giuliani said on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” one of two television appearances on Sunday, that if there was a question over the legitimacy of the investigation, he’d be very reluctant to suggest Trump accede to an interview.

“Imagine if I recommended that the president testify and it turns out a judge finds that Mueller didn’t have proper authority?” he said.

On Pardons

Asked on CNN about the possibility Trump may issue pardons to associates under investigation by Mueller, Giuliani said, “The president has issued no pardons in this investigation. The president is not going to issue pardons in this investigation,” and added he recommended Trump not do so.

But Giuliani left open the question of what the president may do in the future. “When it’s over, hey, he’s the president of the United States, he retains his pardon power, nobody’s taking that away from him.”

Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins said on CBS that “it would be more helpful if the president never mentioned the word ‘pardon’ again with respect to the Russia investigation.”

“He wants to get that Russia investigation completed and every time he brings up the issue of pardons it gives the investigators something else that they have to look into,” she said.

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