Battle Over ‘Spygate’ Documents Will Soon Come To A Head

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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The Justice Department has offered to brief the so-called Gang of Eight regarding documents about the FBI’s use of an informant to maintain contact with members of the Trump campaign.

The DOJ said it would provide access on Monday or Tuesday — with a possible delay — to documents related to a subpoena issued in May by House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes in a late-night statement issued on Wednesday.

The documents, which deal with an FBI informant who has been identified as Stefan Halper, are at the center of a tense battle involving congressional Republicans, the Justice Department and the White House. (RELATED: A London Meeting Before The Election Aroused George Papadopoulos’s Suspicions)

The Justice Department has resisted requests for documents related to Halper, who was revealed as a longtime CIA and FBI informant weeks after Nunes’s initial request.

Halper, 73, was in contact with three Trump campaign advisers — Carter Page, Sam Clovis and George Papadopoulos — in the lead-up to the 2016 election. He first made contact with Page on July 11, 2016 at a symposium at Cambridge University. That was nearly three weeks before the FBI opened “Crossfire Hurricane,” the counterintelligence investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.

Halper and Page remained in contact for 14 months, through September 2017.

Lawmakers will not confirm what documents they are requesting from the DOJ, but they seemingly want to find out what rationale the FBI used to task Halper to make contact with the Trump campaign and what documentation was created authorizing the surveillance operation.

The DOJ initially rejected Nunes’s request, claiming that revealing information about the informant would risk his life and other secret operations.

Justice Department officials took the documents into a briefing on May 24 but did not provide them to lawmakers, a source familiar with the discussions told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

DOJ officials also asked lawmakers not to publicize that documents were taken into the meeting, the source said. Despite that request, the DOJ revealed in its statement on Wednesday that officials took the records into the meeting but did not turn them over to lawmakers.

The Justice Department and FBI now say that officials “are prepared to brief members on certain questions specifically raised by the Speaker and other members.”

“The Department and FBI will also provide the documents that were available for review but not inspected by the members at the previous briefing along with some additional material,” reads the statement.

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, a member of the Gang of Eight, criticized the DOJ’s offer for a briefing.

“The further disclosure of investigative materials is inexplicable,” said Schiff, who has fought against the release of various documents related to the Russia investigation, including information about the infamous Steele dossier.

“The DOJ is now reinforcing a precedent it will have to live with, whether the Congress is in Republican or Democratic hands, of providing materials in pending or closed cases to the legislative branch upon request,” Schiff added.

President Donald Trump has dubbed the FBI’s use of an informant “Spygate,” claiming the FBI planted a spy in his campaign. Democrats and many media outlets have pushed back on the claim and quibbled with Halper being labeled a spy.

Some Republicans have also bucked Trump.

“I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do,” Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina said in a Fox News interview on May 30. (RELATED: Gowdy Defends FBI From ‘Spygate’ Accusations)

“It looks to me like the FBI was doing what President Trump said I want you to do — find it out,” said Gowdy, who added that Trump himself is not a target of the collusion probe.

Gowdy’s comments drew some pushback, with critics noting that he had not seen DOJ and FBI documents that would shed light on the informant’s activities.

Speaker Paul Ryan also appeared to back Gowdy up on Wednesday, saying he had “seen no evidence to the contrary of the initial assessment that Chairman Gowdy has made.”

Ryan clarified those comments on Thursday, saying he wants to see “the corroborating documents that back up” what DOJ and FBI officials told the Gang of Eight in the May 24 briefing.

He also added he has seen “no evidence that there’s any collusion between the Trump campaign, and President Trump and Russia.”

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