Schumer, Pelosi Urge DOJ And FBI To Hold Bipartisan Gang Of Eight Briefing On Sensitive Documents In Place Of Partisan Meeting

May 23, 2018

Senate and House Leaders Urge Justice Department Officials to Reconsider Holding Meeting Regarding Sensitive Investigative Documents

Schumer, Pelosi: If Meeting Happens, It Should Be Bipartisan Gang of Eight Briefing, Not Partisan Meeting

Washington, D.C. – Today, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi urged Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Chris Wray to abandon plans to hold a meeting between DOJ and FBI officials and Republican members of Congress to discuss highly sensitive information related to Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. In a letter to Rosenstein and Wray, the leaders urged the Justice Department officials not to go forward with the meeting, but said that if DOJ was intent on proceeding, they should host a Gang of Eight briefing in place of a partisan meeting.

“This meeting is completely improper in its proposed form and would set a damaging precedent for our institutions and the rule of law.  We can think of no legitimate oversight justification for the ex parte dissemination - at the direction of the president - of investigative information to the president's staunchest defenders in Congress and, ultimately, to the president's legal defense team,” the leaders wrote.

The leaders continued, “We urge you to reconsider holding this meeting.  However, if you have determined in your best judgment that Justice Department participation in the meeting is the only way to prevent this situation from devolving into an outright constitutional crisis, then we believe you must insist on the only appropriate mechanism for highly sensitive briefings that might implicate intelligence sources and methods - a bipartisan Gang of Eight briefing that involves congressional leadership from both chambers.”

The full text of the letter appears below:

Dear Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Director Wray:

We write to express our alarm regarding increasingly aggressive efforts during the last 48 hours by President Trump and his congressional allies to interfere with and discredit the Special Counsel's investigation. In particular, we are deeply concerned about the meeting reportedly scheduled for Thursday, May 24, which according to the White House is for the purpose of sharing "highly classified and other information" related to the investigation with Republican Representatives Nunes and Gowdy.

This meeting is completely improper in its proposed form and would set a damaging precedent for your institutions and the rule of law.  We can think of no legitimate oversight justification for the ex parte dissemination - at the direction of the president - of investigative information to the president's staunchest defenders in Congress and, ultimately, to the president's legal defense team. We understand that other Senate and House Republicans are now seeking to attend, adding to the spectacle of this ill-considered and overtly partisan event.

Such a meeting would be highly irregular and inappropriate during any open criminal or counterintelligence investigation, much less one involving the president.  At a barest minimum, it creates the appearance of an unseemly opportunity for the president and his enablers to prematurely access investigatory information and selectively leak national security secrets, for the purpose of publicly distorting the facts in this case.

We trust that you, as leaders of the Nation's preeminent law enforcement institutions, appreciate the importance of upholding the independence and impartiality of this investigation as well as the integrity of the Department of Justice itself.  Since his appointment only 12 months ago, the Special Counsel has proceeded with professionalism and efficiency in securing numerous guilty pleas and indictments.  His work is exposing the scale of Russia's interference in our election, and the disturbing extent to which individuals associated with the Trump campaign engaged in criminal acts and posed counterintelligence threats. The Special Counsel must be allowed to continue his investigation unimpeded and shielded from increasingly brazen attacks by the president and his congressional enablers.

We appreciate your service and recognize how difficult your duties are in the face of unreasonable "demands" from the president, and of constant, ill-intentioned pressure from his congressional allies.  Nevertheless, your duties include the obligation to act with adherence to highest principles and in keeping with the finest traditions of your predecessors when the Department has faced challenges to its independence in the past.

For these reasons, we urge you to reconsider holding this meeting.  However, if you have determined in your best judgment that Justice Department participation in the meeting is the only way to prevent this situation from devolving into an outright constitutional crisis, then we believe you must insist on the only appropriate mechanism for highly sensitive briefings that might implicate intelligence sources and methods - a bipartisan Gang of Eight briefing that involves congressional leadership from both chambers.

Thank you for your immediate attention to our urgent request.

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