The FBI’s deputy director warned the House Judiciary Committee chairman Friday against prematurely releasing more than 3,400 pages of transcripts from its months-long probe of the bureau and Justice Department, which he turned over to law enforcement officials late this week — and wants back by Christmas Eve.
In a letter to the panel’s chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, FBI Deputy Director David L. Bowdich stressed that it would be impossible for the FBI to scour the large trove of transcripts for classified, sensitive or personally revealing information by noon Monday, when the government was likely going to be in the midst of a shutdown.
“Your committee has not afforded the FBI the time necessary to undertake a thorough review of this large volume of documents for classified, sensitive, and personally identifiable information,” Bowdich wrote in his letter to Goodlatte.
The House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform panels spent most of the past year interviewing a series of law enforcement agents and other witnesses, including former FBI director James B. Comey and former attorney general Loretta E. Lynch, in a series of closed-door interviews. The proceedings were politically controversial, with panel Republicans arguing that they were necessary to examine evidence of bias in the ranks of law enforcement officials running federal probes of the Trump campaign’s alleged Russia ties and Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Democrats charged that the GOP was simply using the investigation as a means of smearing the FBI and Justice Department, and thus undermining the origins of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe.
The joint investigation quietly wound down this week after the panels held a final, seven-hour interview with Lynch on Wednesday. The full set of transcripts from all transcribed interviews was turned over to the FBI later that day. The panels have issued no reports — but leaders indicated that they wanted to at least release the transcripts of their interviews for public consumption.
The FBI’s letter suggests, however, that it might take until the new year — when Democrats take over the panels and most likely shutter the probe — to complete their review of the documents.
That is likely to frustrate panel leaders, both of whom are retiring at the end of the year. Bowdich cautioned Goodlatte against simply releasing the materials without the FBI’s approval.
“The FBI believes that the release of un-redacted or inadequately redacted transcripts will result in the disclosure of law enforcement sensitive information and personally identifiable information,” he wrote.
A spokeswoman for Goodlatte did not immediately respond to a request for comment.