Top congressional allies of President Donald Trump are calling on him to order the release of sensitive documents connected to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
In a letter to Trump, Republican Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, as well as Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), urged the president to demand that Attorney General Jeff Sessions turn over the documents to Congress immediately.
Included in their request is a demand for a copy of an August 2017 document detailing the scope of Mueller’s probe, which would reveal the subjects of his investigation and details about the potential crimes he’s examining.
"We write to request that you exercise your authority as president of the United States," the lawmakers wrote in a missive dated Tuesday, "to instruct Attorney General Jeff Sessions to immediately produce all documents requested by Congress relating to our investigation of certain prosecutorial investigative decisions made by the Department of Justice and FBI in 2016 and 2017."
It’s an extraordinary request from three congressmen who have largely defended Trump from the ongoing probes, accusing top Justice Department and FBI officials of misconduct and raising questions about the legitimacy of Mueller’s investigation. Meadows routinely speaks to Trump, but it’s unclear if the two discussed this request before the lawmakers issued the letter.
Trump has at times expressed frustration with the Justice Department over sharing documents with Congress and publicly chastised Sessions and other leaders. But Justice Department and FBI officials have made extraordinary efforts to accommodate congressional requests too, appointing a U.S. attorney to expedite document production and striking a deal with the Judiciary and Oversight Committees to ensure redactions are acceptable to both sides.
Democrats and Justice Department defenders have argued that the intensifying document requests are an effort to give Trump a pretext to fire Sessions or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — who oversees the Mueller investigation — and thereby exert more influence over Mueller’s probe.
In their letter, the congressmen demand the Mueller "scope" memo, written by Rosenstein, which sets out the parameters of Mueller’s investigation. They also ask for documents "related to the FBI and broader Department of Justice’s initial investigation into the Trump campaign prior to the appointment of the Special Counsel." And they also seek records related to the FBI’s decision to conduct surveillance of a Trump campaign adviser in October 2016.
Jordan said efforts by DOJ to speed document production had fallen short of satisfying lawmakers’ demands. "It’s still as slow as ever," he said in an interview.
Jordan complained that the documents provided had included what he considered unnecessary redactions and that Justice Department officials had been slow to reveal crucial information raised by some lawmakers — such as the circumstances surrounding high-level personnel changes at the FBI.
"Congress is allowed to see information. Just because DOJ has some longstanding policy, that shouldn’t trump everything else," he said.
Asked whether the lawmakers knew whether Trump would support their request, Jordan deferred to the White House.
"The president wants transparency. The president wants the truth out there," he said, "and this is the best way to get it."