A confrontation between House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and top officials in the Justice Department over GOP demands for documents connected to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe appears to have been averted — for now.
Nunes trekked to the Justice Department on Thursday for a briefing with top officials about their concerns with his demands, which they warned could endanger lives and a crucial intelligence source. Afterward, Nunes and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who accompanied him, issued a statement describing the meeting as "productive."
“We had a productive discussion today with officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Department of Justice, and FBI in which we raised questions related to information requested from the Intelligence Community," Nunes and Gowdy said in a joint statement. "The officials committed to holding further discussions of these matters, and we look forward to continuing our dialogue next week to satisfy the Committee’s request.”
The more conciliatory tone followed a tense standoff over access to the documents that drew high-level intervention from the White House. Nunes issued a subpoena on April 30 to obtain them but was rebuffed last week. He publicly threatened to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt of Congress, a warning he said was partly about sending a message to Sessions, who is recused from most matters connected to the Mueller investigation.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller, phoned Nunes and Gowdy late Tuesday to defuse tension and arrange Thursday's briefing.
It's unclear whether the lawmakers received any commitment to access the documents they're seeking. It's also not entirely clear what documents they want — the request itself is classified. Justice officials had warned that Nunes' subpoena sought information on a specific individual, a contention Nunes and other Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee denied. But a copy of the subpoena obtained by POLITICO indicated that it did seek records connected to an individual.