With the gusher of news this week, you may have missed an impromptu meeting on the Hill Wednesday when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein went to lobby House Speaker Paul Ryan to help protect the integrity of the Russia investigation.
Rosenstein sought to convince Ryan to take his side in a long-simmering dispute with House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes over documents the FBI considers to be highly sensitive regarding the Russia investigation.
Nunes, who supposedly recused himself from the investigation after cementing his reputation as the White House errand boy last March, was apparently cleared of wrongdoing by the House Ethics Committee in December. But Rosenstein and FBI director Christopher were duly unimpressed with the notion that Nunes, who has promised to release a “corruption exposé” about the FBI, would put country before party when it came to the sensitive materials.
Naturally, Ryan chose Nunes over Justice—a reward for the next-level hyper-partisanship Nunes has demonstrated during the House’s investigation. CNN writes:
At Wednesday’s meeting — initiated at Rosenstein’s request — Rosenstein and Wray tried to gauge where they stood with the House speaker in light of the looming potential contempt of Congress showdown and Nunes’ outstanding subpoena demands, sources said. CNN is told the discussion did not involve details of the separate Russia investigation being led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
While Ryan had already been in contact with Rosenstein for months about the dispute over documents, Rosenstein and Wray wanted to make one last effort to persuade him to support their position. The documents in dispute were mostly FBI investigative documents that are considered law enforcement sensitive and are rarely released or shared outside the bureau.
During the meeting, however, it became clear that Ryan wasn’t moved and the officials wouldn’t have his support if they proceeded to resist Nunes’ remaining highly classified requests, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the meeting.
Following the meeting, the Justice Department agreed to let House Intel members go view the documents at a secure location, though they will not be able to take the documents into possession. Great. Remember what happened the last time Nunes viewed intelligence that he then relayed to the public at a hasty press conference outside the White House? Right.
And if you’re looking at a smoking gun that proves Nunes is on witch hunt to discredit Mueller’s investigation, just look at the roster of upcoming interviews Republicans are planning for the House Intel Committee.
The Justice Department has also approved a slew of Justice and FBI officials to be interviewed by the committee in January, including former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, an official with ties to Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm behind the Trump dossier; embattled FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok, whose text messages trashing the President became cannon fodder for congressional Republicans last month; and recently reassigned FBI General Counsel James Baker. The committee will also be permitted to interview FBI Attorney Lisa Page (who exchanged the texts with Strzok), FBI Attorney Sally Moyer, FBI Assistant Director for the Office of Congressional Affairs Greg Brower, FBI Assistant Director Bill Priestap and FBI Chief of Staff James Rybicki.
CNN has also learned from a source with knowledge of the negotiations that a second batch of Strzok’s text messages is expected to be produced for the committee next week.
Relatedly, Fusion GPS, which funded research for the now infamous Steele dossier, lost its legal bid on Thursday to block House Intel from obtaining its bank records. At the heart of this inquiry is likely Republicans’ fervent hope that the FBI paid Fusion to complete the dossier, which will somehow taint both the FBI and the dossier’s findings—a twofer! Short of that, Republicans are poised to make a huge deal out of the fact that the Clinton campaign funded opposition research. (Gasp! … cue thriller score … dah dah dah!)
What this means is that Nunes & Co. will essentially have access to nearly everything they want to build their anti-Mueller exposé.