- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 3, 2017

House Republicans could draft a resolution to hold Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress as soon as Monday for failure to turn over documents sought as part of an intelligence committee investigation.

The move comes after what House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes describes as months of stonewalling on the part of the Justice Department and the FBI as his panel sought access to records related to federal investigators’ use of the salacious Trump dossier compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele.

Mr. Nunes said the agencies suddenly became more forthcoming with some information when it was reported over the weekend that special counsel Robert Mueller had removed one of the FBI’s top Russian counterintelligence investigators from his team after an internal probe found the agent had sent messages that showed possible bias for Hillary Clinton and against President Trump.

According to the special counsel’s office, Peter Strzok, who led the investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s email server in 2016, left the special counsel’s team last summer. He sent the text messages to Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer who also left the Mueller investigation this past summer.

“The DOJ has now expressed — on a Saturday, just hours after the press reports on Strzok’s dismissal appeared — a sudden willingness to comply with some of the Committee’s long-standing demands,” Mr. Nunes said. “This attempted 11th-hour accommodation is neither credible nor believable, and in fact is yet another example of the DOJ’s disingenuousness and obstruction.”

The Justice Department pushed back against the California Republican’s characterization, and a spokeswoman said the department was continuing to work to balance information requests with national security responsibilities.

“The department has already provided members of [intel committee] and House leadership with several hundred pages of classified documents and multiple briefings — including for example clear answers as to whether any FBI payments were made to a source in question related to the dossier — and has more recently cleared key witnesses they have requested to testify,” said DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores.

She said the department has offered to make both Mr. Strzok and FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe available for interviews.

The House committee initially issued subpoenas to the Justice Department on Aug. 24, but has delayed deadlines as the two sides negotiated. Mr. Nunes threatened to drag both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Mr. Wray before his committee to explain the delay in providing the information sought. Mr. Nunes later met personally with Mr. Rosenstein to discuss the matter.

As part of his subpoena, Mr. Nunes sought records about the FBI’s relationship with Mr. Steele, including any payments made to him or any efforts to corroborate information he provided the bureau. He also sought copies of any Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act applications or orders that specifically incorporated information provided by Mr. Steele, his sources or Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that paid Mr. Steele to collect intelligence on the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia.

But in his statement issued over the weekend, Mr. Nunes said he had also been stonewalled on obtaining information related to the dismissal of Mr. Strzok.

“By hiding from Congress, and from the American people, documented political bias by a key FBI head investigator for both the Russia collusion probe and the Clinton email investigation, the FBI and DOJ engaged in a willful attempt to thwart Congress’ constitutional oversight responsibility,” Mr. Nunes said.

Unless all the House committee’s requests are met by close of business Monday, he said he expects to file the contempt resolution.

• Andrea Noble can be reached at anoble@washingtontimes.com.

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