The Justice Department intends to offer an additional briefing to a select group of senior lawmakers who have pressed for details about the FBI’s use of an informant to make contact with associates of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
A senior Justice Department official said lawmakers in the so-called Gang of Eight — a group that includes Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) — will have an opportunity to review documents that they didn’t review during a high-level classified briefing last month.
“The Department and FBI are prepared to brief members on certain questions specifically raised by the Speaker and other members,” the DOJ official said. “The Department will also provide the documents that were available for review but not inspected by the members at the previous briefing along with some additional material.”
The briefing is expected to occur on Monday or Tuesday next week.
The new briefing comes as some GOP lawmakers have suggested the Justice Department still has answers to provide about the FBI’s decision to deploy an informant to glean information from Trump campaign officials. Trump has railed against the FBI and accused it of planting a spy within his ranks for political purpose, though he’s presented no evidence to support the claim, which he’s labeled “spygate.”
Ryan said Wednesday morning that he’s seen “no evidence” to back up Trump’s claim and endorsed the “initial assessment” of another senior GOP lawmaker — Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) — who said the FBI appropriately used an informant to follow leads about suspect contact between Trump campaign associates and Russia.
But Ryan also said the Justice Department still owed lawmakers information before they reached “final answers” on the episode, and he faulted DOJ for what he described as the slow-walking of congressional document requests. The Justice Department said late Wednesday that it would have liked to provide information on the informant sooner but took “a little additional time to provide the most fulsome answers to the members’ questions as possible.”
“The Department and FBI takes congressional inquiries seriously and believes that the documents provided next week will be valuable to the Gang of Eight,” the officials said.
Ryan’s decision to back the Justice Department’s representation of the informant episode infuriated at least one conservative GOP lawmaker.
“There is no defense today for Paul Ryan siding with the FBI and Department of Justice against those of us in the Congress fighting for transparency and accountability,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said on Fox News on Wednesday evening, adding, “We need the speaker to be an institutionalist for the Congress, not to be a defender of the deep state.”
Gaetz said Ryan’s comments prompted chatter among colleagues about whether to replace him as speaker. But when a POLITICO reporter highlighted his comments on Twitter, Gaetz indicated support for Ryan.
“Let me be clear. I support Paul Ryan. I’m glad he’s our speaker,” he said. “But I strongly disagree with him on this issue, which he discussed on TV first. (Sad!)”
Asked about Gaetz’s remarks, a Ryan spokeswoman declined to comment.