House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said Sunday that he won’t meet with the Justice Department until he is handed documents related to a confidential FBI source who spoke with Trump campaign aides in 2016 about Russian interference in the election.
Nunes also pointed to Friday reports that the FBI’s confidential source spoke with at least two advisers to President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign about its possible ties to Russia as a reason for his position, accusing someone within the department of leaking the information after he and South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy didn’t take Justice officials up on their most recent offer to answer the lawmakers’ questions in a briefing.
Earlier this month, Nunes threatened to hold Justice Department officials in contempt of Congress if they don’t release documents related to the source that he has subpoenaed.
To quell rising tensions, officials briefed Nunes and South Carolina Republican Rep. Gowdy a couple of weeks ago in a meeting the lawmakers later called “productive.” The department then offered to brief Nunes and Gowdy on Friday with the understanding that certain questions remained outstanding from a previous briefing, but the invitation went unanswered, CNN has reported.
“Now if you look at what happened on Friday night, probably the mother of all leaks, of all time, to two major newspapers, that came out Friday night. Now, had Mr. Gowdy and I went to that meeting, you can bet they would have tried to pin that on us,” Nunes, R-California, told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”
“We had what I thought was a productive meeting, and then, after that meeting, they’ve done nothing but leak and leak and leak,” he continued. “Now, we don’t know exactly who it is over at the Department of Justice or the FBI. I’m not pinning any blame on people. But we’re not going to go to another meeting where we don’t get documents and then the meeting leaks out.”
Nunes told Fox News that he and Gowdy refused to do the briefing after being told they would not get the documents they are seeking.
“They were trying to get Mr. Gowdy and I to go the Department of Justice for, supposedly, another briefing. We said, look, unless we’re going to get documents, we found out Thursday night, they were not going to provide documents, so therefore, we’re not going to go,” Nunes said on Sunday.
The Justice Department and the California Republican have been down this road before. CNN reported earlier this month that Nunes threatened to hold Justice Department officials in contempt of Congress on several occasions for failing to turn over sensitive documents related to the Russia investigation only to not read the materials once they were made available to him.
Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that revealing the identity of the informant would be a violation of the law.
“I think that if any individual, elected official or otherwise, knowingly reveals a classified piece of information about an FBI source, you are breaking the law and should be fully prosecuted,” Warner said.
As for Trump’s suggestion that the FBI planted an informant within his campaign for political purposes, Warner said, “I have not seen any evidence of that kind of truth of the claim the President has made.”
Also on Sunday, the House Intelligence Committee’s ranking Democrat, California Rep. Adam Schiff, called the suggestion by Trump and his lawyers that there was a political spy embedded in the Trump campaign “nonsense.”
“You hear it in the same terms that Trump often speaks which is ‘people are saying,’ or ‘I’m hearing,’ or ‘we’re being told.’ That’s another way of saying this is patently untrue, but we would like to spread it anyway, and it’s singularly destructive of our institutions, but then, that’s the point,” Schiff told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Schiff also accused Nunes and other Republicans of acting only in service to the President.
“This is a dramatic and new and destructive low, I think, for the Congress of the United States basically to ignore the warnings of the FBI and Justice Department and potentially risk people’s lives,” he said. “What they would like this information for is clearly to be of service to the Trump defense team and further any narrative they have.”
The California Democrat also said he believes the FBI has acted appropriately in the matter.
Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told The Wall Street Journal on Saturday that federal prosecutors would need to make clear the role played by the confidential source and whether the person had compiled any “incriminating information” about Trump’s associates before the President would agree to any interview with special counsel Robert Mueller. Otherwise, Giuliani said, Trump could be “walking into a trap.”
Although Trump has suggested the FBI’s confidential intelligence source was embedded in his campaign, US officials have told CNN that was not the case.
The officials say that the identity of the source had been closely held at the highest levels of the FBI and intelligence community, and the individual has been a source for the FBI and CIA for years.
Officials from the Justice Department, FBI and Office of the Director of National Intelligence have maintained that turning over that information Nunes has requested on the individual would pose a grave risk to the source’s life.
CNN’s Matt Korade, Alessia Grunberger, Clare Foran, Shimon Prokupecz, Jim Sciutto, Laura Jarrett, Manu Raju and Eli Watkins contributed to this report.