House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Thursday he will take “enforcement action” against the Justice Department for not complying with his subpoena for counterintelligence information from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Schiff told reporters that the committee will hold a business meeting next week to take an unspecified action against the Justice Department for not providing the committee documents. But a letter obtained by CNN shows the Justice Department offered Wednesday to show all committee members a less redacted version of the Mueller report.
Schiff would not say whether enforcement action meant he would move to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt, as the House Judiciary Committee has already done after the department would not provide the panel with the unredacted Mueller report and evidence.
Schiff said he would speak with the House general counsel to decide the best course of action to take against the Justice Department if they won’t provide documents.
“The deadline came and went without the production of a single document, raising profound questions of whether the Department has any intentions to honor its legal obligations,” Schiff said.
Schiff also said Thursday that his committee would vote next week separately to release the transcripts of closed-door interviews with President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen conducted earlier this year, along with some exhibits.
But the planned action against the Justice Department, in whatever form it may take, adds to the litany of grievances that Democrats are compiling against the Trump administration as they conduct multiple investigations into the administration and the President — and claim to face blanket resistance from the White House to their requests for documents and subpoenas.
The Justice Department responded to Schiff with a letter Wednesday, offering to provide more than it had proposed to the House Judiciary Committee before the panel voted to hold Barr in contempt. The department proposed to Schiff that it would extend access to the less-redacted version of the Mueller report to the entire Intelligence Committee, according to a letter obtained by CNN. The department also offered, after the committee completed its review of the less-redacted report, to request a list of 12 specific documents that weren’t covered by grand jury material.
In the letter, the Justice Department called Schiff’s subpoena for all of the counterintelligence information “overbroad and unworkable.”
Schiff said that ahead of a deadline this week, he had sent the Justice Department a list of a dozen “narrow sets of documents” requesting counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials. He said the documents requested had been referenced in the Mueller report and would not be covered by executive privilege.
But like Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, the House Intelligence Committee may face an uphill battle in court if members decline to review even the minimally redacted version of the report that’s been offered to date.
Schiff argued that the Justice Department lacks any good reason for failing to comply with his subpoena to provide counterintelligence information to his panel. He told CNN that his committee, along with other House panels, is looking at reviving “inherent contempt” to fine individuals for not complying with subpoenas, saying they would issue hefty fines to the tune of “whatever is necessary to get them to comply.”
If they can’t enforce their subpoenas, Schiff said, “Not only this President but future presidents can act as corruptly as they wish without any scrutiny or oversight or ability to be held accountable.”
Schiff accused the Justice Department of a “flagrant double standard” for providing a trove of documents to the Republican-led Congress about the Hillary Clinton investigation, but not providing any to Democrats now that they’re seeking materials related to the special counsel probe.
California Rep. Devin Nunes, the former Republican chairman of the committee who led the push for the Justice Department to hand over documents in the last Congress, joined Schiff in his letter requesting Mueller’s counterintelligence information.
But it’s not clear whether Nunes is supportive of Schiff’s subpoena, or how Republicans will vote on whatever action the committee could take against the Justice Department next week.
In the last Congress, Nunes threatened to hold former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in contempt, or even try to impeach him, but the committee did not ultimately do so.
This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.