House panel, Justice Dept end standoff over Mueller documents

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Attorney General Barr speaks at farewell ceremony for Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein at the U.S. Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaks during a farewell ceremony for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

May 22, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The House Intelligence Committee pulled back on Wednesday from threats to enforce a subpoena against Attorney General William Barr after the Justice Department agreed to turn over materials relating to an investigation into Russian election interference.

The decision ended a standoff between the Democratic-led committee and the Justice Department for access to counterintelligence reports generated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller during his probe of President Donald Trump and his associates.

The dispute was one of many between the Republican administration and the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives as Trump refuses to cooperate with numerous congressional probes into matters ranging from his own finances and business dealings to Russian meddling in the presidential election.

“The Department of Justice has accepted our offer of a first step toward compliance with our subpoena, and this week will begin turning over to the Committee twelve categories of counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials as part of an initial rolling production,” U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, the committee chairman, said on Wednesday.

Schiff canceled a meeting on Wednesday, in which the panel was to consider enforcement action, but said the subpoena would remain in effect to ensure the Justice Department keeps cooperating.

Barr, the top U.S. law enforcement official and a Trump appointee, on May 2 snubbed the House intelligence committee, which voted to hold him in contempt of Congress for not handing over a full, unredacted Mueller report.

Last week, Schiff told Barr the Justice Department had failed to comply with a subpoena his committee issued for documents and materials related to Mueller’s investigation.

In a letter to Schiff on Tuesday, the Justice Department said it was willing to give Intelligence Committee members and staff closed-door access to additional material if Schiff does not move forward with his threats to hold the department in contempt.

The White House has accused Democrats of playing politics with the congressional probes. Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Wednesday the White House has cooperated with Congress.

“”It’s absurd to say that the White House is engaged in total resistance,” Sanders told reporters.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Mark Hosenball; additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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