The House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday will begin writing a resolution holding top FBI officials in contempt of Congress after the agency missed a Monday deadline to turn over key evidence the committee has been seeking for months.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., has accused the FBI and Department of Justice of a “months-long pattern … of stonewalling and obstructing this committee’s oversight work.”
Those accusations boiled over during the weekend, after stories were leaked to the New York Times and Washington Post saying that FBI agent Peter Strzok, a key investigator in the Trump-Russian probe, was removed from the Russia probe after exchanging text messages critical of Trump to another FBI agent he was involved with romantically. Republicans had been seeking information about why he was removed, but were never told anything by FBI or Justice Department directly.
Nunes had also been seeking information about the FBI and Justice Department’s use of the Steele dossier, which contains damning but unverified information about President Trump.
But the Strzok leak was the last straw, and Nunes announced Saturday he has ordered committee staff to begin drafting a contempt of Congress citation for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and for FBI Director Christopher Wray unless they complied with the panels’ requests for information by the close of business on Monday.
After the story broke, Nunes said, the FBI and Justice Department agreed to make some of the witnesses available, but are still withholding many documents and other evidence the Intelligence panel is seeking, an aide said.
Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said the department has given the panel hundreds of pages of classified documents and multiple briefings, and has now allowed Strzok and FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to meet with the panel.
While committee aides will start writing the contempt resolution Tuesday, Nunes has not set a date for the panel to consider the contempt charges.
If approved by the committee, the resolutions of contempt would be sent to the House floor for consideration, but only if Speaker Paul Ryan chooses to bring them up. A spokesman for Ryan did not respond to a request for comment about whether Ryan would bring contempt resolutions to the floor.
Contempt of Congress resolutions approved by the House are referred to the the Justice Department, but they are relatively rare.
The House voted in 2012 to hold then U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for withholding documents sought by the House Oversight Committee on the DOJ’s “Fast and Furious” operation that resulted in thousands of U.S. guns ending up in the hands of Mexican drug dealers.
These resolutions also are not always effective. For example, the Justice Department elected not to prosecute Holder over the contempt charge.