Democrats on the House Oversight Committee say the Justice Department is withholding documents that would provide a rationale for classifying records as top secret that appear to corroborate former FBI Director James Comey's account of his interactions with President Donald Trump.
In a letter to the panel's chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, top Democrats on the committee say they've been rebuffed in their request for an explanation of why notes kept by former top Justice Department Dana Boente about his conversations with Comey in early 2017 are being withheld.
At the time, Comey reportedly told Boente about interactions with Trump that made him feel pressured to back off of the bureau's investigation of Russian contacts with the Trump campaign. A copy of Boente's notes was later inappropriately marked as "top secret," the Democrats say, citing internal Justice Department records.
"It is unclear who at the Department of Justice tried to improperly classify these notes, but it is an abuse of the classification system to try to classify information merely to conceal information from the American people for political reasons," Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) wrote.
They're urging Gowdy to issue a subpoena to force the Justice Department to produce documents about its decision to classify Boente's notes and whether any officials outside DOJ sought to influence it. Gowdy's office was not immediately available for comment.
The Justice Department delivered to Congress last month copies of Comey's personal memos about his interactions with Trump. The memos are considered crucial evidence in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of whether Trump attempted to obstruct the FBI's Russia probe, including when he fired Comey.
Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of Trump's decision to fire Comey, a move that sparked a chain reaction that resulted in Mueller's appointment and months of billowing scandal surrounding members of Trump's inner circle.
Trump has railed against Comey for months, accusing him of leaking classified information and lying to Congress. And he's prodded the Justice Department to act against Comey, prompting detractors to warn that he's attempting to subvert the independence of the Justice Department to go after political opponents.