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FBI criticizes GOP chairman for Christmas Eve document deadline

The FBI is pushing back on outgoing House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte's demand that the bureau finish r...

Posted: Dec. 23, 2018 1:16 PM
Updated: Dec. 23, 2018 1:16 PM

The FBI is pushing back on outgoing House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte's demand that the bureau finish reviewing more than 3,000 pages of closed-door interview transcripts by Christmas Eve after the documents were provided to the FBI earlier this week.

In a blistering letter to Goodlatte, obtained by CNN, FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich warned that releasing transcripts without proper redactions "will result in the disclosure of law enforcement sensitive information" and suggested the documents might contain classified information.

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"Your committee has not afforded the FBI the time necessary to undertake a thorough review of this large volume of documents for classified, sensitive and personally identifiable information," Bowdich wrote.

Goodlatte and House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy, who are both retiring Republicans, hope to release transcripts of the interviews they conducted over the past year for their joint probe into the FBI's handling of the investigations into Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and Russia.

Bowdich said the FBI was provided the documents for review on Wednesday and was given a deadline of Monday to provide suggested redactions or corrections — which he emphasized in italics was Christmas Eve.

"We respectfully request that the committees maintain the confidentiality of the un-redacted interview transcripts pending a complete review by the FBI, the (Justice) Department and the Special Counsel's Office, as appropriate," Bowdich wrote.

Some of the documents the lawmakers obtained and asked witnesses about involve the foreign intelligence surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, and they have also probed the start of the counterintelligence investigation into members of Trump's campaign.

In his letter, Bowdich noted that the topics covered included "FISA warrants and counterintelligence investigations," warning that the transcripts could contain classified information.

The committees conducted the interviews behind closed doors, and the final sessions with former FBI Director James Comey and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch were this week. Comey's testimony was already released publicly as part of an agreement struck in exchange for his appearance.

Goodlatte and Gowdy haven't said whether they plan to put out any kind of report to summarize their findings before they retire at the end of this Congress. Gowdy told reporters on Wednesday that he wanted the transcripts of the interviews to be released publicly so that people can judge for themselves.

The Democrats taking over the two committees have made clear they do not plan to continue the probe into the FBI and Justice Department, which they charge was an effort to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller.

Goodlatte's office did not respond to a request for comment.

The FBI and Justice Department have repeatedly clashed with the Republican lawmakers over their investigation, as Republicans say the Justice Department slow-rolled their document requests.

Several conservative lawmakers blamed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for the delays and threatened to hold him in contempt of Congress unless they got the documents they were seeking.

Those same lawmakers on the committees were frustrated that Rosenstein never appeared for a closed-door interview as part of the probe. An interview between committee leaders and Rosenstein was scheduled in October, but it was postponed and never rescheduled.

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