House Republicans rebuffed in bid to access details of DoJ Biden investigation

  • In Politics
  • 2023-01-30 19:33:21Z
  • By The Guardian
Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters
Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters  

The US justice department told top House judiciary committee Republicans on Monday that it would decline to produce confidential information about the special counsel investigation into the recent discovery of classified-marked documents at Joe Biden's personal home and office.

The department said in a letter to the committee reviewed by the Guardian that it would not provide details about the president's documents case - or any other inquiry - because it could reveal the roadmap of the investigation and risk the appearance of political conflict.

"Disclosures to Congress about active investigations risk jeopardizing those investigations and creating the appearance that Congress may be exerting improper political pressure or attempting to influence department decisions," assistant attorney general Carlos Uriarte wrote.

The department also noted that because the attorney general, Merrick Garland, had appointed a special counsel to oversee the Biden documents case, it was bound by the special counsel regulations that allow for certain communications at the start and at the end of investigations.

"These regulations govern the department's conduct in all special counsel investigations and will continue to govern our disclosures in this matter," wrote Uriarte, a former top adviser to the deputy attorney general who currently leads the division which has been in touch with Congress.

The clear refusal from the justice department to open its files to the judiciary committee sets up the prospect of a bitter fight with the new House Republican majority, which has made political investigations into the Biden administration a priority for the next two years.

The justice department has come under increasing pressure from top lawmakers in both the House and Senate to brief them on details about the Biden case - as well as the parallel criminal investigation into Donald Trump's retention of national security materials and obstruction of justice.

Garland appointed top former prosecutor Robert Hur as special counsel to oversee the Biden case on 12 January, months after naming another top former prosecutor, Jack Smith, as special counsel to take charge of the January 6 Capitol attack and Mar-a-Lago documents investigations into Trump.

The justice department has long refused to provide to Congress confidential information that could compromise investigations or grand jury secrecy rules, as well as deliberative communications like prosecution memos because of the risk of political interference in charging decisions.

As the department explained in 2000 in a letter to the then-House rules committee chair, John Linder, its position has been upheld by the supreme court in United States v Nixon (1974) that recognized making such materials public could have an improper "chilling effect".

The so-called Linder letter noted the department had reaffirmed during the Reagan administration that providing congressional committees with briefings on criminal investigations would place Congress in a position to exert power - and undermine the integrity - of those inquiries.

The Linder letter also raised the risk of inadvertent or deliberate leaks of materials that could reveal the roadmap of investigations to defendants, who could then use that information to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a potential prosecution.

The spokesperson for the judiciary committee Russell Dye criticized the justice department's response.

"Our members are rightly concerned about the justice department's double standard here," Dye said in a statement about the Biden documents case. "It's concerning, to say the least, that the department is more interested in playing politics than cooperating."

Uriarte's response to the judiciary committee comes a day after he told top lawmakers on the Senate intelligence committee that the department would similarly decline to provide information about the classified-marked documents in the Biden case as well as in the Trump case.


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