- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2017

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has set a Thursday hearing on “document production” following the chairman’s threat to drag the attorney general and FBI director before the panel if they failed to turn over subpoenaed documents related to the Russia investigation.

It’s unclear whether any of the documents requested by Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican and the panel chairman, have been provided to the committee or if either Attorney General Jeff Sessions or FBI Director Christopher A. Wray will appear at the hearing.

But the event has the potential to heighten tensions between the Justice Department and congressional investigators as numerous probes into Russian efforts to influence the presidential election are ongoing.

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The committee sent a pair of subpoenas to the Justice Department and the FBI last month, according to a letter authored by Mr. Nunes.

The letter seeks documents related to the agencies’ relationship with former British spy Christopher Steele, who authored a salacious dossier of President Trump’s supposed activities in Russia, as well as any copies of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act applications that relied upon information provided by Mr. Steele.

Subpoenas were served on the Justice Department and FBI on Aug. 24, initially requesting the information by Sept. 1, and later extended the deadline to Sept. 14.

Mr. Nunes‘ spokesman has declined to comment on whether any of the requested documents were provided as well as on the nature of the “document production” hearing included on the committee’s calendar.

A Justice Department spokeswoman wouldn’t say whether Mr. Sessions has been asked to or intends to appear at the hearing.

“Discussions with the committee are ongoing, and we have asked that the subpoenas that had compliance dates continue to be on hold during that process,” said spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores.

Partisan divisions have emerged within the House Intelligence Committee, with Democrats concerned Republicans’ efforts to gather information on the dossier and its author are meant to undermine claims about the Trump campaign.

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 FISA 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.

Last week, a spokesman for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was reportedly surveilled twice under FISA orders, questioned the evidence investigators used to substantiate the wiretaps.

“It’s not clear what went into the petition. It’s not clear how strong the case was,” Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni told The Washington Times.

Mr. Nunes‘ letter claims that at one point his committee sought relevant FISA applications and orders and was allowed to review “responsive documents on a read-and-return-basis” but that it was not provided with copes of the documents and has not been allowed to review them again. Mr. Nunes stepped back from the committee’s investigation into Russian interference because of an ethics review into his handling of classified information, but other Republicans on the committee have said they support the line of inquiry about the dossier.

In the past, Mr. Nunes has most prominently pushed the angle that Obama-era officials, including former National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice and former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, inappropriately asked to identify, or “unmask,” American citizens caught up in U.S. intelligence intercepts of foreign figures — in a covert attempt to implicate a number of Trump campaign officials.

If the FBI and Justice Department decline to turn over the requested documents, Mr. Nunes said he’d ask Mr. Wray and Mr. Sessions “to explain under oath DOJ’s and FBI’s unwillingness or inability to comply with the full subpoenas.”

If both men refuse to turn over the documents or appear before the committee to explain their rationale, the committee is prepared “to proceed with any and all available legal options,” Mr. Nunes wrote. That includes holding them in contempt of Congress.

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