The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is drafting a contempt resolution against top FBI and Justice Department officials that he plans to file “as quickly as possible,” charging that federal law enforcement officials failed to sufficiently produce documents he has been demanding since the summer.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is expected to direct a contempt resolution against FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein over “outstanding documents” related to an August subpoena demanding information pertaining to a dossier of allegations surrounding President Trump’s 2013 trip to Moscow.
Nunes filed additional subpoenas at the time demanding interviews with Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions for interviews and requested an audience with other witnesses as well. One of those witnesses was Peter Strzok, an FBI counterintelligence expert who worked on the bureau’s probe of Hillary Clinton’s private email server and was removed from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team after it was discovered he exchanged anti-Trump texts with a colleague with whom he was having an affair, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.
Nunes reissued his threat to file a contempt citation in a statement to the Washington Examiner on Saturday, following this weekend’s reports about Strzok. He acknowledged to reporters this week that the Justice Department had indicated to him in the wake of those reports that it would make Strzok and others available for an interview. But Nunes added that “we have a long way to go” until his request for information was fully satisfied, suggesting that the committee would now need to see the content of Strzok’s referenced texts, as “it’s all related.”
Nunes’s subpoenas inspired controversy even before he signaled he would act on his threat to attempt to hold top federal law enforcement officials in contempt. Democrats on the committee never signed on to his subpoenas, and the Justice Department has disputed Nunes’s assertion that it is not complying with his requests in various reports.
Nunes has locked horns with Democrats and FBI officials in the past over the directions in which he has tried to steer the panel’s ongoing investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Earlier this year, Nunes suggested to reporters that someone in the Trump transition team’s identity had been improperly “unmasked” — a charge Democrats challenged, and an episode that eventually led the House Ethics Committee to look into whether the chairman had improperly disclosed classified information to the press. Nunes announced he was taking a step back from the committee’s probe in the wake of that dispute but has since insisted that he never intended to recuse himself entirely.
The contempt resolution is the latest indication that Nunes has not relinquished his chairman’s authority in the intelligence committee’s ongoing probe of matters related to the 2016 election. A spokesman for Nunes said Tuesday that “barring an imminent breakthrough” with the department, the contempt resolution would go forward as planned.
Nunes would need the support of the Intelligence Committee and then the entire House for his contempt resolution before it could be referred to the Justice Department for potential legal proceedings before a court.
The last time the House successfully passed a contempt resolution for a sitting Justice Department official was in 2012, when it censured Attorney General Eric Holder for refusing to turn over documents related to the federal government's “Fast and Furious” cross-border gunwalking program. The Justice Department did not ultimately prosecute him.