The Justice Department missed a Monday deadline to provide GOP congressmen copies of memos written by former FBI Director James Comey about his conversations with President Trump – but is seeking a brief extension while officials review the request.
Three House Republican committee chairmen made the request in a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, saying Comey relied on the memos to write parts of his new book.
“Now that at least the excerpts of the book are out, and it appears like there is much in the book that comes from the memos,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes told Fox News‘ Martha MacCallum Friday on “The Story.”
But as Comey’s book hits the shelves and Comey himself discusses memo contents in interviews, Rosenstein wrote a letter to the three GOP lawmakers on Monday saying officials need to consult further, citing an ongoing investigation and concerns about classified material.
“Department officials are consulting with the relevant parties … one or more of the memos may relate to an ongoing investigation, may contained classified information, and may report confidential Presidential communications, so we have a legal duty to evaluate the consequences of providing access to them,” he wrote.
But he said they are proceeding “as quickly as we can” and hope to have a response by “mid-week.”
Nunes on Friday also cited Comey’s admission in congressional testimony in June 2017 that he had given his friend, Columbia University Professor Daniel Richman, his memos about discussions with Trump in order to have his notes leaked to The New York Times.
The scheme, which Comey suggested was an effort to ensure the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, undercuts any claim that the documents need to remain secret, Nunes argued.
“So, they were already leaked to The New York Times,” Nunes added. “They should be made available, not just to all the key congressional committees, but they also should be made available to the public. … I think they will get them to us.”
“I think they will get them to us.”
In February, a judge ruled that Comey’s Trump memos need to remain hidden from public view to preserve the integrity of the ongoing Russia probe.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy joined Nunes in requesting that unredacted copies of the memos be made available immediately, but no later than the close of business on April 16.
The three chairmen wrote that there is “no legal basis for withholding these materials from Congress.” They noted that the FBI has made the memos available only on a highly limited “read and review” basis for select congressmen and staff.
House Republicans have repeatedly threatened to hold Justice Department officials in contempt as they have sought more than a million pages in documents related to Hillary Clinton and the beginning of the department’s Russia investigation.
Goodlatte told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo on “Sunday Morning Futures” that the GOP has a variety of options if the Justice Department fails to produce the memos.
“We have shown a willingness to issue subpoenas and to take our case to the Attorney General of the United States and to take our case to the American people,” Goodlatte said.
Asked whether holding DOJ officials in contempt of Congress or even instituting impeachment proceedings were possibilities, Goodlatte said that “all of those tools are on the table.”
In January, Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley sent a letter to Rosenstein inquiring whether Comey had improperly leaked classified memos to Richman.
“According to press reports, Professor Daniel Richman of Columbia Law School stated that Mr. Comey provided him four of the seven memoranda and encouraged him to “detail [Comey’s] memos to the press,'” Grassley wrote.
“If it’s true that Professor Richman had four of the seven memos, then in light of the fact that four of the seven memos the Committee reviewed are classified, it would appear that at least one memo the former FBI director gave Professor Richman contained classified information,” the letter continued.
Fox News’ Catherine Herridge and The Associated Press contributed to this report.