Gang of Eight, Kelly Added to Justice Department Russia MeetingsBy
Nunes, Gowdy scheduled to meet with Justice officials
A second meeting will also include congressional Democrats
President Donald Trump said he expects “total transparency” from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the FBI regarding documents related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Two meetings will be held at the Justice Department on Thursday to review the documents, which Republican members of Congress have demanded. The second one was scheduled on Wednesday night after congressional Democrats complained about being excluded from the review.
“I want total transparency,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House on Wednesday. The records include the name of an informant the FBI used as it opened a counterintelligence investigation into Trump’s campaign in 2016. “From Rod, from the FBI, from everybody,” he said.
House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes and Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy will meet at the Justice Department at noon on Thursday with FBI Director Christopher Wray and a senior Justice Department official to review records related to Mueller’s investigation. The meeting was organized by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly after Trump met with Rosenstein, Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats on Monday to discuss the congressional demands.
The second meeting, scheduled for 2 p.m., will include the Gang of Eight, congressional leaders from both parties, the Justice Department said in a statement on Wednesday night. Kelly will attend both meetings.
The latter session was scheduled after House and Senate Democratic leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, denounced the proceedings and the manner in which they were being conducted.
“While it’s a good thing that the Gang of Eight will be briefed, the separate meeting with a known partisan whose only intent is to undermine the Mueller investigation makes no sense and should be called off," Schumer said in a statement Thursday. "What is the point of the separate briefing if not to cause partisan trouble?”
The leaders called the meeting “completely improper” in a letter to Wray and Rosenstein on Wednesday, and said the Justice Department should instead arrange a briefing for Republican and Democratic congressional leaders.
"However if you have determined in your best judgment that Justice Department participation in the meeting is the only way to prevent this situation from devolving into an outright constitutional crisis, then we believe you must insist on” the bipartisan briefing, they wrote, calling it “the only appropriate mechanism for highly sensitive briefings that might implicate intelligence sources and methods.”
Republican Senators Chuck Grassley, Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn, meanwhile, wrote Kelly and Rosenstein on Tuesday asking to be included in the meeting.
Trump again attacked the Mueller investigation on Wednesday, declaring “WITCH HUNT!” in a tweet, and late Tuesday issued a pair of tweets that accused former President Barack Obama of planting a “spy” in his presidential campaign. Trump cited no evidence to support the claim; last year he accused Obama of wiretapping his campaign, also without ever producing evidence.
Rosenstein defended his department in remarks at an event in New York hosted by Bloomberg Law on Wednesday.
“One of the things that sometimes gets lost in the endless commentary about law enforcement is that some of the most patriotic and public-spirited American citizens work in the Department of Justice,” he said.
— With assistance by Steven T. Dennis, Toluse Olorunnipa, Justin Sink, and Chris Strohm