GOP leaders threaten Justice officials with action on subpoenaed documents this week
They said Sunday that they delivered that message Friday night during a meeting that included House Speaker Paul Ryan, the chairmen of the House Intelligence, Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
"Paul (Ryan) made it very clear; there's going to be action on the floor of the House this week if the FBI and DOJ do not comply with our subpoena request ..." House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, who attended the meeting, said on "Fox News Sunday."
"So Rod Rosenstein, Chris Wray, you were in the meeting, you understood him just as clearly as I did," the South Carolina Republican added. "We're going to get compliance or the House of Representatives is going to use its full arsenal of constitutional weapons to gain compliance."
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, who also attended the meeting, delivered a similar warning on Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures."
"If documents do not begin to be turned over tomorrow and a clear way and path forward for everything else is not clear here in the next couple days, there's going to be hell to pay by Wednesday morning," Nunes said.
Nunes, a California Republican, again raised the idea that House Republicans could hold Justice Department leaders in contempt of Congress.
The Justice Department declined to commit on the latest round of threats.
The ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, called the Republican lawmakers' threats a "transparent" and "cynical" move.
"By escalating their demands on the Justice Department in a manner designed to provoke a confrontation, the GOP leadership in Congress hopes to further undermine the Mueller probe," the California Democrat said in a statement. It is transparent as it is cynical and shows just how complicit the Republican leadership has become in the President's attack on the rule of law."
Nunes made similar threats recently after he served the Department of Justice with subpoenas to review documents related to the FBI's use of a confidential intelligence source during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Initially, the Justice Department resisted providing Congress with the materials, fearing the source's life would be placed at risk, but it later decided to provide members with classified briefings to answer questions. Top law enforcement officials from the Justice Department, FBI, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence held two briefings with lawmakers in May and earlier this month.
The FBI dispatched a confidential source to speak with several of Donald Trump's presidential campaign aides after the bureau obtained evidence that the aides had ties to Russia, according to several news reports.
The revelations over the source has caused consternation between the Justice Department, Capitol Hill and the White House for weeks.
President Donald Trump and his allies have repeatedly accused the FBI of spying on his campaign, with Trump claiming the FBI's use of the informant is evidence that the Russia investigation is a "witch hunt" against him fabricated by Democrats and other enemies.
Those claims of bias have only escalated following the release of a Justice Department inspector general report detailing a series of failures by the top federal officials in charge of the Hillary Clinton email investigation ahead of the election. The report concluded that the FBI's actions ultimately "cast a cloud" over the bureau and senior leaders did lasting damage to the FBI's reputation. But it also found that the specific prosecutorial decisions reviewed in the Clinton case were "consistent" with precedent and not affected by bias or other improper actions.
Prior to the report's release, Gowdy had said he was now "more convinced" that the FBI acted appropriately in its handling of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible connections to Donald Trump's campaign. And in a break with Trump, Ryan had also said for the first time earlier this month that he agreed with Gowdy that the FBI did "exactly" what it should have done over its handling of the confidential source.
After the release of the report, however, Gowdy said: "This report confirms investigative decisions made by the FBI during the pendency of this investigation were unprecedented and deviated from traditional investigative procedures in favor of a much more permissive and voluntary approach. This is not the way normal investigations are run."
Former Trump operative Roger Stone met with Russian who wanted $2M for Clinton dirt
The meeting was first reported by The Washington Post.
Stone and Caputo say the meeting was part of a larger effort by law enforcement to set up the Trump campaign, citing records suggesting that the man Stone met with is a Russian national who has claimed to be an FBI informant.
In letters to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes obtained by CNN, lawyers for Caputo and Stone say Caputo arranged a meeting between Stone and the Russian man who called himself Henry Greenberg.
Caputo's lawyer writes that his client facilitated the meeting through his Russian business partner. Greenberg told Caputo he "had information about Hillary Clinton he wanted to provide to the Trump campaign," the letter says.
Caputo and Stone did not disclose the meeting to congressional investigators, but it has become a focus in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign, according to the Post.
In the letters to Nunes, the two political operatives assert that they were transparent in their testimony before the committee, despite not disclosing the meeting with Greenberg.
Caputo told CNN he communicated with Greenberg by phone, and while he recognized that Greenberg had an accent, Caputo "assumed he was a US citizen."
"It was May 2016," Caputo added. "Nobody was talking about Russia, collusion, etc."
Caputo said he now believes the Russian who met with Stone was an FBI informant because "the OSC (Office of Special Counsel) knew more about it than I did." He added that it was not until prosecutors informed him that Greenberg was Russian that he learned the man he had spoken with in 2016 was not a US citizen.
"I was under the understanding that he was an American citizen of Russian descent," Caputo said. "I had no reason to believe that, I just assumed it."
The letter from Caputo's lawyer states that during his testimony with the House Intelligence committee, he "answered all questions with candor and to the best of his recollection."
However, Caputo's lawyer wrote that during his interview with the special counsel, which took place more than a month ago, "his recollection was refreshed regarding one brief interaction with a Russian national in May of 2016."
"In the course of his interview with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, this specific contact was not discussed since at the time of this interview, Mr. Caputo had simply forgotten about this brief encounter in 2016," the letter states.
Caputo's lawyer relayed that he would be willing to brief the committee on the matter.
In his letter to Nunes, Stone's lawyer similarly called the testimony "entirely truthful," adding that Stone "feels obligated" to disclose the meeting because of "information brought to his attention after his appearance."
The letter states Greenberg approached Stone "wearing a Trump MAGA hat and T-shirt and spoke with what was possibly a Russian accent."
"Prior to meeting, Mr. Stone did not know anything about Mr. Greenberg, including his background or nationality. At the meeting, Mr. Greenberg proudly showed Mr. Stone photos of Mr. Greenberg and friends at several South Florida Trump rallies," the letter states.
Stone's lawyer described the encounter as a "one-time, 20-minute interaction" and stated that Greenberg offered Stone the "non-specific, damaging Clinton information" in exchange for a $2 million payment from Trump, but that Stone declined.
Stone told CNN he was disclosing the meeting now because "Mr. Caputo only brought this to my attention recently."
He also said he never discussed the meeting with the Trump campaign, nor anyone else, adding that it was "so ludicrous that I forgot about it."
California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Stone's testimony "appears inaccurate or deliberately misleading" and that the offer to Caputo "could not plausibly have escaped his recollection." Schiff called for the committee to provide the special counsel investigation with transcripts of their interviews and knocked the Republicans who control the panel.
"The truthfulness of many of our witnesses has been difficult to ascertain, which is why I have urged the committee to make the transcripts available to special counsel Mueller for a determination whether any witnesses committed perjury before our committee," Schiff said. "The majority's unwillingness to do so demonstrates that protecting the President remains its paramount objective, even when it means shielding witnesses who may have testified before us untruthfully."
President Donald Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that he doubts Trump knew about Stone's meeting.
"I doubt it. I certainly didn't know about it. It's news to me," he said.
Greenberg, who the Post said sometimes went by the name Henry Oknyansky, had difficulties with the American immigration system, and spent two years in the custody of immigration services before returning to Russia. In 2015 court filings related to his immigration status cited by Stone and Caputo, Greenberg claimed that he worked as an FBI informant for 17 years.
However, Greenberg denied he was acting on the FBI's behalf when he met with Stone, according to the Post, and the court filing the newspaper obtained said his work with the FBI halted sometime after 2013.
The letters from the two political operatives' lawyers mention a text exchange after the meeting with Greenberg and say Stone's impression was that the meetup had been a waste of time and he viewed Greenberg as "a nut."
The exchange was obtained and published by the Post.
"How crazy is the Russian?" Caputo asked.
"Wants big &$ for the info- waste of time," Stone replied.
Caputo then texted, "The Russian way. Anything at all interesting?"
"No," Stone said.
An FBI spokeswoman and a spokesman for Mueller's office declined to comment to the Post.
The meeting with Stone reportedly took place a few weeks after former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos was told about Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton and two weeks before senior members of the Trump campaign met with Russian nationals -- including a lawyer with ties to the Kremlin -- in Trump Tower.
Greenberg initially denied Stone's account of the meeting but later changed his story, giving the Post a brief description of the meeting that matched Stone's depiction in part.
While Stone told the Post that Greenberg was alone for the meeting, Greenberg relayed that he was accompanied by a Ukrainian man only identified as Alexei. Greenberg told the Post that Alexei was fired from the Clinton Foundation. He also denied he asked for money, saying played a limited role in the meeting and left it to Alexei to talk with Stone while he sat at a nearby table.
Stone told CNN he had never heard of Alexei, nor was this person present at the meeting.
The Clinton Foundation also told the Post that they had never hired someone with the first name Alexei.
A news release from Caputo following the Post story states that in his meeting with the Special Counsel's Office, he "noted the Mueller team knew far more than he did about the Greenberg approach."
After his meeting with Mueller, Caputo investigated Greenberg, the release said, and he put the information he found into a dossier online.
The disclosure of the meeting comes a month after multiple reports that the FBI dispatched a confidential source to speak with at least two advisers to Trump's presidential campaign after the bureau obtained evidence that the aides had ties to Russia. The revelations have prompted Trump to accuse the FBI of spying on his campaign and trying to frame him.
Democratic lawmakers visiting immigration centers in South Texas
The lawmakers came to South Texas, they say, to learn more about the agency's processing of undocumented immigrants entering the United States, including a policy to refer all people who cross the border illegally for criminal prosecution on top of immigration proceedings.
As a result of enforcing that policy, families who cross illegally have been separated from their children because those accompanying the children are put into the criminal justice system.
The group included Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Texas Reps. Filemon Vela, Vicente Gonzalez, and Sheila Jackson Lee, Vermont Rep. Peter Welch, Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, and Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan.
Both Gonzalez and Vela represent parts of the Rio Grande Valley in Congress.
Speaking after visiting a processing center in McAllen, Texas, several Democrats expressed anger at the family separations and called on the Trump administration to change its policy.
"When you have a mother tell you directly that she's in fear that she will never see her child again, and when the United Nations Human Rights Commission indicate to the Trump administration that you are violating human rights, then you know that what we are saying today is President Trump, cease and desist," Jackson Lee said.
Merkley said he had "spoken directly" with Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the policy and wanted to see if President Donald Trump would meet with them.
"We must end this policy of family separation," Merkley said.
The visit comes two days after the Department of Homeland Security confirmed the US government has separated nearly 2,000 children from parents at the border since implementing a policy that results in such family separations.
From April 19 through May 31 of this year, 1,995 minors traveling with 1,940 adults who said they were the children's guardians were separated due to the policy, Department of Homeland Security spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters Friday on a conference call.
Merkley first visited the South Texas border on June 3, where he was denied entry to an immigration center for unaccompanied minors in the border city of Brownsville after asking for a tour of the facility.
"It's damaging to children, putting them through a horrific experience in a land where they know no one and they don't know where they're being sent and don't understand why they're being sent just as a way to be, if you will, cruel as a strategy of deterrence -- not deterrence from people crossing the border, deterrence from people seeking asylum," he said at the time.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders argued Thursday that it's "biblical" for the Trump administration to enforce federal law in a way that separates children from their families at the border when they illegally enter the US. Her comments came when she was pressed by CNN's Jim Acosta on whether she agreed with Attorney General Jeff Sessions' assertion, citing Romans 13, that the Bible requires the Trump administration to follow the law.
The Catholic Church and other religious leaders have voiced strong criticism of policies resulting in family separations and recent moves Sessions has made to restrict asylum. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, a prominent Catholic leader in the United States, said Friday there is no biblical defense for separating families, condemning the practice as "unjust" and "un-American."
Human rights organizations also argue it's inhumane to separate children from their parents.
The American Civil Liberties Union has a petition on its website to request the Department of Homeland Security stop separating immigrant children from their parents.
"The Trump administration is sending the clear message that immigrants aren't welcome here -- and they don't mind sacrificing constitutional rights and basic human decency just to get that across," the petition states. "They want to scare people away from coming to this country to seek a better life and aren't afraid to admit it."
In Congress, Senate Judiciary committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein introduced the Keep Families Together Act, a bill that would prevent the separation of immigrant children from their parents.
Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler, ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, is planning to introduce the companion bill on the House side, a source told CNN.