DOJ: Senators Will Get Classified Document Info, Someday
DOJ: Senators Will Get Classified Document Info, Someday
While the Department of Justice has been busy appointing special counsels to look into both the Trump and Biden classified documents issues, the Senate Intelligence Committee has been feeling rather annoyed about being left out of the information loop.
And the interesting part is that it is a bipartisan annoyance. Obviously, now that both Trump and Biden have special counsels appointed by the DOJ, both sides have a vested interest in seeing what happens next. Well, the Senate Intelligence Committee has been asking the DOJ for answers since last August. It is only NOW that the DOJ is bothering to get back to the senators with any kind of answer. Apparently, the answer is “yeah, we’ll get you the information you’re asking for… eventually.”
The DOJ letter, dated Saturday, responds to the committee’s August request for information about the documents recovered from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and follow-up inquiries by the panel about classified material found at the Penn Biden Center as well as Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware, home.”
“We are working with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to support the provision of information that will satisfy the Committee’s responsibilities without harming the ongoing Special Counsel investigations,” Assistant Attorney General Carlos Uriarte wrote to Democratic Sen. Mark Warner and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, the Intelligence panel’s top lawmakers.”
“Although one of the Special Counsels was appointed only on January 12, prosecutors on both matters are actively working to enable sharing information with the Committee,” Uriarte said.”
The letter also notes that the DOJ “worked in good faith to schedule a briefing in September 2022,” but since that time, there have been “significant developments, including the appointment of two separate Special Counsels to handle the respective matters.”
“The Department looks forward to continuing to engage with the Committee to meet its needs while protecting the Department’s interests,” the letter states.”
Neither Warner or Rubio is particularly pleased with how the DOJ is shutting them out – to the point that they gave a joint interview to CBS’s Margaret Brennan on Sunday.
The two senators were united in their demand that the DOJ give them the information necessary to do their jobs. From Warner:
The Justice Department has had the Trump documents about six months, the Biden documents about three months, our job is not to figure out if somebody mishandled those, our job is to make sure there’s not an intelligence compromise.”
And while the Director of National Intelligence had been willing to brief us earlier, now that you’ve got the special counsel, the notion that we’re going to be left in limbo, and we can’t do our job, that just cannot stand. And every member of the committee who spoke yesterday and I wanted the director to hear this, regardless of party said, we are united in we have to find a way to do our job. That means we need these documents, we need that assessment.”
Well, I don’t know how congressional oversight on the documents, actually knowing what they are, in any way impedes an investigation. These are probably materials we already have access to. We just don’t know which ones they are. And it’s not about being nosy.”
You know, here’s the bottom line: if in fact, those documents were very sensitive, materials were sensitive, and they pose a counterintelligence or national security threat to the United States, then the intelligence agencies are tasked with the job of coming up with ways to mitigate that. How can we judge whether their mitigation standards are appropriate, if we don’t have material to compare it against, and we can’t even make an assessment on whether they’ve properly risk assessed it?”
And Warner is letting the DOJ and the Director of National Intelligence know that their excuses are not going to fly.
Warner also noted that there have been past instances of Congress receiving access to classified documents during Justice Department investigations, specifically when the Intelligence Committee investigated Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election while special counsel Robert Mueller simultaneously conducted his own probe.”
“This idea that we’re not going to get that access, just, again — we all agreed, and I think the director heard loud and clear from all of us. It’s just not tenable,” he said.”
Both Warner and Rubio raise the most important point – the idea that the DOJ, made up of unelected bureaucrats, gets to control what elected members of Congress are told, is unacceptable. And Warner made that clear last Wednesday after a closed-door meeting with the Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines.
“I’m very disappointed with the lack of detail and a timeline on when we’re going to get a briefing, not on anything dealing with criminality — that’s an appropriate Department of Justice responsibility — but it is our responsibility to make sure that we, in our role as intelligence oversight, know if there’s been any intelligence compromise,” Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., said in a rare rebuke of the administration.”
“Every member of the committee, regardless of Democrat or Republican, [was] unanimous in that this position that we are left in … until somehow a special counsel designates that it’s OK for us to get briefed is not going to stand,” Warner said. “And all things will be on the table to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he warned.”
The DOJ letter is obviously meant to respond to the open criticism unanimously coming from the Senate Intelligence Committee. It’s a rare moment that both sides get really angry about something, but the DOJ has managed it this time. A message of “we’re trying and we’ll get back to you when we figure it out” is not going to fly. And Rubio warned the DOJ that their funding could be at risk if the Senate Intelligence Committee does not start getting some real answers.
Senator Rubio on classified documents: “I’m not in the threat business right now, but …” pic.twitter.com/JSMltZQul1
— Senator Rubio Press (@SenRubioPress) January 29, 2023
Now wouldn’t THAT be interesting to see: a bipartisan show of withholding funding until the DOJ gets its act together to properly brief the senators. Now yes, the special counsel appointed to deal with the Biden documents, Robert Hur, has probably not even started his job yet, as he was having to wrap up his work in the private sector before returning to the Department of Justice. But is that really the excuse that the DOJ is going to hide behind? What about Jack Smith, who was appointed as special counsel last November? The Senate Intelligence Committee has been asking for details on the Trump classified documents since the raid on Mar-a-Lago last August. What has Smith been doing for the last couple of months?
Senators Warner and Rubio are exactly right to demand some answers from the Department of Justice. And I don’t think they will be satisfied with the promise of “later” from the Attorney General’s office.
Featured image: classified documents from Mar-a-Lago, photo in Department of Justice court filing via Wikimedia Commons, cropped, government work in the public domain
Of all the proposals of amendments to the constitution, I never hear anyone proposing the direct election of the U. S. Attorney General. If its good enough for the 50 states, why not at the federal level? Bought time? Maybe.