If you’ve ever seen a cop drama on TV you’ve surely heard the line, “If you did nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide.” Well, it looks like the nation’s top law enforcement agency did something wrong because they are doing a lot of hiding. For the third time this year, the FBI has thumbed its nose at Congress and refused to hand over subpoenaed documents related to the Russia investigation. What do you do when the nation’s top cops refuse to cooperate with Congress?
One of the more important roles of Congress is the job of oversight. Congress is supposed to play an oversight role in every federal government agency. In the House, NASA reports to the Committee on Space, Science, and Technology. The Department of Defense reports to the Armed Services Committee, and everyone is looked at by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The Senate also has their own versions of these committees. When a committee wants to investigate alleged improprieties, the agencies are expected to cooperate and produce all requested documentation. That doesn’t seem to be happening.
For months, the FBI and Congress have been battling over documents related to the dossier on President Trump created by Christopher Steele. While the salacious document was the subject of many media reports, it was easily proven false. With multiple Russia investigations being conducted on Capitol Hill, the document has become the focus of many members of Congress.
Congress needs the documents because they are attempting to find out three things: 1) who paid for the dossier; 2) did the FBI believe the dossier was real; and 3) did the FBI use the dossier for justification in spying on then-candidate Trump and the campaign team? The answer to those questions could go a long way into solving the issue of “Russian” interference in the last election.
After months of stonewalling by the FBI, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) finally subpoenaed the documents. On Aug. 24, Nunes sent the subpoena to the FBI and DOJ seeking all documents related to Steele and the firm that hired him, GPS Fusion. The chairman gave the agencies until Sept. 1 to comply.
The day came and went with no documents being provided to the committee. Being the gentleman that he is, Nunes then extended the deadline until Sept. 14. The chairman also sent a letter to the Attorney General and Director of the FBI stating, “Please be advised that, in the event that DOJ or FBI fails to provide the documents in full or testimony described above, the Committee expressly reserves the right to proceed with any and all available legal options—including reporting to the full House of Representatives a resolution to hold the Attorney General and Director of the FBI in contempt of Congress, pursuant to 2 U.S.C. Sections 192, 194.”
For a third time, the FBI and DOJ failed to produce any documents for the committee, once when asked and twice under subpoena. Why would the FBI refuse to cooperate with Congress? If the FBI did nothing wrong, it would make sense for them to run up to Capitol Hill and declare, “Here are the documents, and we did nothing wrong!” That is not happening.
The committee is at an impasse and must make a decision. Does Congress continue to let the executive branch spit in its face and ignore the constitutional authority of Congress, or does Congress find its spine and fight back?
Clearly, the FBI and DOJ are trying to hide something, and Chairman Nunes must make good on his promise. Nunes should initiate the process to hold the leaders of the FBI and DOJ in contempt of Congress. The decision by the DOJ and FBI to ignore Congress not only affects the two agencies, it affects the entire federal government. If every agency believes it can defy Congress with no repercussions, Congress has no oversight role. It is up to Chairman Nunes to remind the executive branch of the Congressional oversight role.