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- The Justice Department agreed to begin turning over counterintelligence and foreign intelligence documents related to the Russia investigation to the House Intelligence Committee this week.
- Committee chairman Adam Schiff said the move is a “first step” towards the DOJ complying with a subpoena for an unredacted version of Robert Mueller’s final report and its underlying evidence.
- The documents could go a long way in answering lingering questions about the myriad meetings and contacts Trump campaign associates had with Russians during the 2016 election.
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The Justice Department agreed at the last minute to begin turning over classified documents on the Russia investigation to the House Intelligence Committee, the panel’s chairman announced Wednesday morning.
California Rep. Adam Schiff said the DOJ’s agreement was “a first step towards compliance with our subpoena,” adding that the department will “begin turning over to the Committee twelve categories of counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials as part of an initial rolling production.”
Schiff said that step should be completed by next week.
The DOJ’s decision to begin complying with Schiff’s subpoena comes after weeks of back and forth between Congress and Attorney General William Barr over the special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report.
Barr is already on thin ice with House Democrats – earlier this month, the judiciary committee voted to hold him in contempt after he failed to meet a deadline to turn over to the panel Mueller’s unredacted report, its underlying evidence, and any grand jury material contained in the document.
Schiff said Wednesday that the committee’s subpoena for documents in the Mueller investigation will remain in effect and “will be enforced should the Department fail to comply with the full document request.”
As the head of the intelligence committee, Schiff has signaled a particular interest in obtaining Mueller’s counterintelligence findings.
Contrary to criminal investigations, counterintelligence probes don’t focus exclusively on whether criminal conduct took place, though the investigations can certainly yield criminal charges. Instead, they look at whether any actions took place that threaten US national security, even if they didn’t rise to the level of criminal conduct.
The Mueller report did not recommend that anyone on the Trump campaign be charged with conspiracy. But the counterintelligence and foreign intelligence documents related to the probe could go a long way in answering lingering questions about the myriad meetings and contacts Trump associates had with Russians during the election, including but not limited to:
- What was the purpose of a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles between Trump adviser Erik Prince and the Russian businessman Kirill Dmitriev?
- Why did former national security adviser Michael Flynn and senior adviser Jared Kushner meet with then Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016 to discuss setting up a secret backchannel?
- Why did Kushner meet with the Russian banker Sergey Gorkov around the same time?
- Why were Kushner, then Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Donald Trump Jr. keen on meeting two Russian lobbyists offering dirt on the Clinton campaign at Trump Tower in June 2016 even after they were told that the meeting was “part of Russia and its government’s support” for Trump?
- Why did Manafort share confidential 2016 Trump campaign polling data with the Russian intelligence operative Konstantin Kilimnik? And why did Manafort offer the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska “private briefings” on the campaign while he was spearheading it?
- Why did former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen meet with the Russian energy tycoon and Putin confidant Viktor Vekselberg at Trump Tower 11 days before Trump’s inauguration in January 2017?
- Why did Ivanka Trump repeatedly try to connect Cohen with the Russian athlete Dmitry Klokov in connection to the Trump Tower Moscow project?