The FBI declined House Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz’s request for the memos maintained by former FBI Director James Comey detailing his interactions with President Donald Trump, Chaffetz said Thursday.
In a letter Thursday, the FBI cited the appointment of special prosecutor Robert Mueller as the reason behind its decision to withhold the documents.
“On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein announced the appointment of former FBI Director and Department of Justice official Robert S. Mueller III to serve as Special Counsel investigating Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 United States presidential election,” said the letter signed by Gregory Bower, the assistant director of the Office of Congressional Affairs. “In light of this development and other considerations, we are undertaking appropriate consultation to ensure all relevant interests implicated by your request are properly evaluated.”
The FBI added that it would “update this response as soon as possible.”
Chaffetz’s original request was sent after it emerged that Comey had kept detailed memos, known as memoranda for the record, of interactions with the president. One of those memos described a February Oval Office meeting during which Comey wrote that Trump had nudged him to drop the FBI’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn had been forced to resign one day before the meeting took place, according to Comey’s memo.
Shortly after news of Comey’s memo broke, Chaffetz wrote a letter to the FBI saying that Comey’s notes “raise questions as to whether the President attempted to influence or impede the FBI’s investigation as it relates to Lt. Gen. Flynn.” Chaffetz then called on the FBI to release the memos “so the Committee can consider that question, and others” related to the Russia probe and Trump’s potential interference in the investigation.
After the FBI responded to Chaffetz’s original letter, he replied and said that the Oversight Committee has a “Constitutionally-based prerogative” to conduct its own investigation, but that he did not want to interfere with Mueller’s probe.
Mueller was appointed to spearhead the FBI’s Russia probe after a slew of explosive news stories that posed questions about the president’s and his associates’ ties to Russia. After Trump fired Comey on May 9, he said that “this Russia thing” had been a factor in his decision.
He also met with Russian officials in the Oval Office the day after firing Comey. During that meeting, he reportedly revealed classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador. Later, it emerged that he had called Comey a “nut job” during the meeting and said that firing him had taken off “great pressure.”
Chaffetz’s letter Thursday said that “the focus of the Committee’s investigation is the independence of the FBI, including conversations between the President and Comey and the process by which Comey was removed from his role as director.”
It continued: “The records being withheld are central to those questions, even more so in light of Comey’s decision not to testify before the Committee at this time.”
Comey is set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in an open, public hearing sometime after Memorial Day.
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