House Intelligence panel requests Mueller briefing, counterintelligence materials
The leaders of the House Intelligence Committee last month made a rare bipartisan request for special counsel Robert Mueller to brief the committee on his investigation and for the Justice Department to provide the panel with the counterintelligence material gathered during the probe.Posted — Updated
The letter, sent March 27 and obtained by CNN Monday, adds another potential venue where Mueller could testify before Congress about the 22-month investigation that ended last month. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-New York, has previously said it's "inevitable" Mueller will be called in to testify before his panel, too.
Like the Judiciary Committee, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and the panel's ranking Republican Devin Nunes request in the letter all of the underlying materials from the Mueller probe, arguing the material is necessary for the Intelligence Committee to conduct its oversight of intelligence matters.
"The committee has an independent constitutional duty and express statutory right to examine the intelligence and counterintelligence information gathered by the Special Counsel's Office, assess the counterintelligence and national security implications and formulate appropriate remedies in response," states the letter, which was sent to Attorney General William Barr, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director William Wray.
The letter specifically requests: all reports and annexes; information about the scope of the investigation; raw reporting or analysis involving intelligence and counterintelligence information; and FBI investigative materials going back to January 2015 "which relate to any US government contacts with any person formally or informally associated with the Trump campaign."
Schiff has previously said that a briefing from Mueller for the Intelligence Committee would occur behind closed doors.
The fact that the letter is signed by both Schiff and Nunes is noteworthy, given that the pair of California congressmen have been at odds over the Russia investigation for more than two years now.
The letter was sent on March 27. The following day, Nunes and the other eight Republicans on the committee sent Schiff a letter jointly calling for him to resign as chairman of the committee.
Schiff has been a focal point of Republican attacks, as they have repeatedly criticized him for claiming evidence of collusion after Barr's letter stated Mueller did not establish a criminal conspiracy between President Donald Trump's team and Russia.
Schiff has stood by his assertion there is evidence of collusion, arguing that the scope of Mueller's investigation was only to determine whether it rose to the level of a criminal conspiracy.
"We have an independent basis to want the counterintelligence information after all of this began as a counterintelligence investigation to determine, to find out whether the President or people in his campaign had been compromised in any way by a foreign power," Schiff told CNN last week.
"That may or may not be included within the Mueller report," Schiff added. "The Mueller report may only go to prosecutorial decisions, so we're going to insist that they uphold their statutory obligation. That means giving us classified information, that means giving us grand jury material."
The request could open another front in the fight between Congress and the Justice Department over material that's redacted in the report Barr plans to release on Thursday. Barr said last week he hadn't seen a legal statute to allow for its release, but congressional Democrats say they're entitled to it, and the House Judiciary Committee has prepared a subpoena for the materials.
Nunes, on the other hand, has a different interest than Schiff in seeing all of the Mueller materials, as he has led an investigation into the origins of the counterintelligence investigation into Trump's team and Russia that began in July 2016.
"What do I want about the Mueller report? I don't care what's in the Mueller report. Matter of fact, I call it the Mueller dossier," Nunes said in a Fox News interview last week. "What I want is the information underlying the report, so that we can actually look into it. Because every time we peel back the onion in this case, what do we find? We find out that, somehow, higher-level officials within the DOJ and FBI were misleading the American people and the courts."
A spokeswoman for Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, declined to comment on whether the Senate Intelligence Committee has made a similar request.
Burr told CNN last week he expected congressional and intelligence leaders, known as the Gang of Eight, would be briefed on the investigation, though he declined to say if he thought Mueller should be delivering the briefing. "At the appropriate time we will be briefed for the simple reason that the Mueller investigation would be briefed to the Gang of Eight, and I would think the Gang of Eight would receive some type of briefing," Burr said.