The Justice Department is refusing to let prime FBI staffers be interviewed by Senate investigators, who need to ask questions about particulars surrounding the controversial firing of former FBI director James Comey and different points.
In a letter obtained by Fox News, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd advised Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ranking Member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that prime FBI officers James Rybicki and Carl Ghattas won’t be supplied for interviews.
The DOJ appeared to cite issues about interfering with the continued particular counsel probe into Russian meddling within the 2016 election.
“As a threshold matter, the scope of the Committee’s inquiry has not been de-conflicted with Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller’s investigation,” the letter mentioned. “… Therefore, so as to defend the integrity of the Special Counsel’s investigation, as now we have beforehand indicated, we will be unable to present Mr. Ghattas or Mr. Rybicki for interviews at the moment.”
One of these officers, Rybicki, has been within the highlight recently after partial interview transcripts emerged wherein the previous Comey chief of employees and one other bureau official recommended Comey had began drafting an exoneration assertion for Hillary Clinton within the non-public e mail investigation weeks earlier than she was interviewed.
The claims, which emerged in interviews by the Office of Special Counsel and have been disclosed by members of the Judiciary Committee, prompted some GOP lawmakers to query Comey’s previous statements to Congress.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Fox News last week he wants to haul back Comey to Capitol Hill; Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, mentioned Monday that Comey “completely” ought to be introduced again to testify.
The declare of an exoneration assertion raised issues for Ratcliffe, as a result of the congressman appeared to get a distinct clarification from Comey throughout a September 2016 listening to earlier than the House Judiciary Committee. At the time, Ratcliffe requested Comey whether or not he made the choice not to suggest prison prices towards Clinton earlier than or after she was interviewed by the FBI in early July.
“After,” Comey mentioned.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders additionally mentioned Tuesday the DOJ ought to take into account prosecuting Comey for varied alleged “improper” actions. Sanders mentioned the previous FBI director “politicized an investigation by signaling he would exonerate Hillary Clinton earlier than he ever interviewed her or different key witnesses.”
But Trump, for his half, confronted intense criticism for his dealing with of the Comey firing earlier this yr, together with accusations from Democrats that he was making an attempt to muffle the Russia meddling probe – which later was taken over by the particular counsel.
Grassley and Feinstein repeatedly have requested for the 2 senior FBI officers to come earlier than the committee, solely to be turned down – and made clear from the beginning they’d questions about Comey’s elimination.
The Senate Judiciary Committee initially requested in July to interview Rybicki and Ghattas, who’s with the FBI’s nationwide safety department. The senators subsequently agreed to restrict the scope of their request, reiterating that they’d questions about Comey’s firing, however have been rebuffed by DOJ.
The two officers might have distinctive perception about Trump’s views and actions towards Comey.
Asked concerning the newest letter, the Department of Justice referred Fox News to the Office Special Counsel, which declined to remark.
Jake Gibson is a producer working on the Fox News Washington bureau who covers politics, regulation enforcement and intelligence points.