The Justice Department said Tuesday it is willing to provide the House Intelligence Committee with documents from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, as long as the panel agrees not to take any action against Attorney General William Barr.
The unusual request comes after the committee’s chairman, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, warned that the committee would take an unspecified “enforcement action” against Barr or the Justice Department after they refused to hand over an unredacted version of Mueller’s report and other documents related to the Russia investigation that shadowed Donald Trump’s presidency for nearly two years.
The move is likely to deepen tensions in the already fraught relationship between congressional Democrats and Barr, who they’ve accused of trying to stonewall and block Congress’ oversight power. A separate House panel voted earlier this month to hold Barr in contempt for failing to comply with a similar subpoena.
So far, the Justice Department missed a subpoena deadline to hand over an unredacted version of Mueller’s report and declined to hand over what Schiff described as “a dozen narrow sets of documents” that were referred to in the report.
In a letter to Schiff on Tuesday , Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said that the DOJ would be willing to make less-redacted portions of the report available to members of the committee and that officials were reviewing troves of investigative documents that were also requested by the committee.
The Justice Department is willing to provide expedited access to the investigative information because of the committee’s interest in counterintelligence matters, but only if the committee “confirms today that it will not pursue any vote on an ‘enforcement action,’” Boyd said.
The department needs a “reasonable amount of time” to review the documents, Boyd said. But, if the committee votes to hold the attorney general in contempt, the Justice Department would stop that process, he added.
Schiff said earlier this month he issued the subpoena to compel the department’s compliance and warned that the committee could take legal action if the Justice Department continued to “ignore or rejects our requests.”
The intelligence committee is scheduled to vote Wednesday on the enforcement action, though Schiff has not said whether that would mean a vote to hold Barr in contempt, or some sort of civil action.