Schiff: House Intel to consider ‘enforcement action’ against Barr

This post is by Andrew Desiderio from Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories

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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff announced on Thursday that the panel will consider an “enforcement action” against Attorney General William Barr for defying the chairman’s subpoena for special counsel Robert Mueller’s unredacted report and its supporting intelligence materials.

Schiff’s announcement came a day after the Justice Department put a counter-offer on the table as it negotiates with the panel for lawmakers’ access to the full report, according to a letter obtained by POLITICO.

The committee sent the Justice Department 12 requests for specific foreign intelligence and counterintelligence documents related to the Mueller investigation, Schiff told reporters Thursday evening. But “the deadline came and went without the production of a single document,” Schiff added, “raising profound questions about whether the department has any intention to honor its legal obligations.”

Schiff issued a subpoena to the department last week to obtain Mueller’s full report, in addition to the underlying grand-jury and counterintelligence information gathered during the 22-month Russia investigation. The subpoena, which Schiff issued after he said the Justice Department stonewalled his initial request, had a Wednesday deadline.

“It is certainly my sense that this is a top-down instruction from the president to stonewall all congressional request, no matter how reasonable,” Schiff said, adding that he would consult with the House general counsel about the best enforcement mechanism, which could include contempt of Congress.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd told Schiff in a letter on Wednesday that his initial request is unworkable, but said all members of the Intelligence panel could view a less-redacted version of the report. That document, which only 12 senior lawmakers currently have access to, does not include grand-jury information.

The Justice Department offered to provide two copies of the first volume of the report — which examines Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians — to the committee. The panel will be required to keep those documents in its secure space for a set amount of time. Lawmakers are able to discuss the information with others who are permitted to view the report. They will also be able to take notes.

After the committee completes its review of the first volume, the sources said, the Justice Department would ask the committee to provide a list of 12 specific documents, not categories, that it believes are necessary for the committee’s work.

Schiff told POLITICO on Thursday that Boyd’s letter was “largely non-responsive” to his requests.

Schiff issued the subpoena after he and Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on the committee, made a rare joint demand for the unredacted Mueller report and all of its underlying evidence, in addition to all of the foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information Mueller’s team gathered as it investigated Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and potential obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.

When he issued the subpoena, Schiff said the committee required the information so that it could “discharge its unique constitutional and statutory responsibilities,” which include conducting oversight of the intelligence community and drawing up legislation to address national security vulnerabilities.

Earlier this week, Schiff maintained that the committee should have access to grand jury information, which is kept secret by law with a few exceptions.

“The intelligence community is obligated to share that information with us,” Schiff said. “There is a separate grand jury exception that allows them to provide information of a counterintelligence or foreign intelligence nature.”

Schiff said that if the Justice Department defied his subpoena, he would “seek to enforce it through whatever means is required.”

The Justice Department’s offer would nearly triple the number of lawmakers allowed to view the less-redacted report — bringing it to 34. But the gesture is unlikely to satisfy Democrats, who have demanded that the full Judiciary Committee also be allowed to see the unredacted report. So far, even the six Democrats currently allowed to access the report have refused to view it in protest of the restrictions.

During a round of negotiations with the Justice Department that ultimately collapsed earlier this month, Judiciary Committee Democrats asked for the full committee to access the less-redacted report while they continue to negotiate for the entire report and Mueller’s underlying evidence. But the Justice Department only offered to allow additional staff to see the document. Only the committee’s chairman, Jerry Nadler, has been cleared to see the less-redacted report, and he has refused in part because he is forbidden from discussing it with colleagues.

Last week, the Judiciary Committee voted to hold Barr in contempt of Congress for defying that panel’s subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report and the underlying evidence. Nadler (D-N.Y.) asked Barr to join the committee in seeking a court order to release the grand jury information to the committee; Barr declined.

That same day, Trump asserted executive privilege over the full Mueller report and its supporting materials, complicating Democratic lawmakers’ efforts.

Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine


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