House Republicans are again battling with the Justice Department over information related to the Russia investigation, this time over documents the intelligence community said involves a top-secret source who has provided information to the CIA and FBI.
The mysterious source has also gathered information that was given to Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to The Washington Post.
WaPo reported Justice Department and intelligence community officials issued a stark warning to the White House on May 2 against a request from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes. Nunes had submitted a subpoena to the Justice Department on April 24 for records related to the Russia probe.
Justice Department and intelligence community officials argued to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly that complying with the subpoena would reveal the identity of a top-secret source and would undermine protocol regarding intelligence sources, according to WaPo.
WaPo provided one small clue about the source: he or she is American.
Kelly discussed the issue with Trump, who sided with the intelligence officials. WaPo noted that it is unclear whether Trump knew that information from the source has been shared with Mueller. Trump has been heavily critical of the Mueller probe, which he has described as a “witch hunt.”
On Thursday, the day after the White House meeting, the Justice Department told Nunes that the agency was “not in a position to provide information responsive to your request regarding a specific individual.”
“Disclosure of responsive information to such requests can risk severe consequences, including potential loss of human lives, damage to relationships with valued international partners, compromise of ongoing criminal investigations, and interference with intelligence activities,” Stephen Boyd, the assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s office of legislative affairs, wrote to Nunes.
Nunes shot back in a statement to WaPo, saying that the Justice Department is “citing spurious national security concerns to evade congressional oversight while leaking information to The Washington Post ostensibly about classified meetings.”
Nunes threatened to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt of Congress for failing to provide the documents on Sunday.
The standoff is not the first between Nunes and the Justice Department. The Republican has battled the agency over other records related to the Russia investigation, including surveillance warrants granted to the Justice Department to spy on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
The FBI and Justice Department relied heavily on the unverified Steele dossier to obtain the spy warrants, according to documents provided to the House Intel panel.
Nunes also recently threatened to subpoena the Justice Department for the FBI document that laid out the initial rationale for the bureau’s counterintelligence investigation into possible collusion. The investigation was opened on July 31, 2016 based on information about then-Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.
The Australian government reportedly passed information to the U.S. government about a barroom conversation that Papadopoulos had in London in May 2016 with Alexander Downer, the former Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. Downer reportedly relayed that Papadopoulos claimed to have learned the Russian government had obtained stolen Hillary Clinton emails. (RELATED: In Private, George Papadopoulos Denies Collusion)
The Daily Caller News Foundation has reported that Papadopoulos was introduced to Downer by Erika Thompson, another Australian diplomat.
Two weeks before that meeting, Papadopoulos met in London with Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor and diplomat who is suspected of being a Russian operative. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 to lying to FBI agents about the timing of his encounters with Mifsud and with two Russian nationals. He told the special counsel’s office that Mifsud said in that meeting that a Russian government official told him about stolen Clinton-related emails.
Papadopoulos had several other interesting encounters during the campaign stretch. TheDCNF reported that in Sept. 2016, he was approached out of the blue by Stefan Halper, a University of Cambridge professor and former U.S. government official. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: A London Meeting Before The Election Aroused George Papadopoulos’s Suspicions)
Halper, who works closely at Cambridge with Sir Richard Dearlove, a former MI6 chief, contacted Papadopoulos about writing a policy paper on Israeli and Cypriot energy issues. Halper, an American, paid Papadopoulos $3,000 for the paper and covered the cost of his room, board, and a flight to London. Papadopoulos met with Halper and one of his assistants for several days in London.
During one of their meetings, Halper asked Papadopoulos about Russia and emails, according to sources close to Papadopoulos’s version of the encounters.
TheDCNF also learned that Halper approached two other Trump campaign advisers, including Carter Page. Halper invited Page to attend a symposium at Cambridge in July 2016.
Another campaign official told TheDCNF they were contacted by and met with Halper several days before Halper’s initial outreach to Papadopoulos. That official, who did not want to be identified, said they were surprised to learn of the Papadopoulos encounter.