US House intel panel delays subpoena against Barr after DOJ offer

2019-05-23 15:24
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The Democratic chairperson of the United States House Intelligence Committee said he would hold off enforcing a subpoena against Attorney General William Barr after the Justice Department agreed to turn over materials relating to an investigation into Russian election interference.

The decision ended a standoff between the committee and the Justice Department for access to counterintelligence reports generated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller during his probe of President Donald Trump and his associates.

"The Department of Justice has accepted our offer of a first step towards compliance with our subpoena, and this week will begin turning over to the Committee twelve categories of counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials as part of an initial rolling production," committee chairman, Adam Schiff, said in a statement on Wednesday.

The agreement is a rare detente in escalating tensions between Congress and Trump's administration over oversight matters.

Schiff said he was postponing a business meeting where the panel was to discuss enforcing the subpoena, but said it will remain in effect "and will be enforced should the Department fail to comply with the full document request".

Mueller's team had produced counterintelligence reports based on evidence about Russia's attempts to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election and passed them to the FBI and the Justice Department. 

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Barr, the top US law enforcement official and a Trump appointee, on May 2 snubbed the House Judiciary Committee, which voted to hold him in contempt of Congress for not handing over a full, unredacted Mueller report. The resolution awaits a full House vote.

Last week, Schiff told Barr in a letter the Justice Department had failed to comply with a subpoena his committee issued for documents and materials related to Mueller's investigation.

He said the committee could consider enforcement action against the department at a meeting scheduled for Wednesday if the requested materials are not produced.

In a letter to Schiff on Tuesday, Justice Department official Stephen Boyd said the department was willing to discuss a possible plan for giving Intelligence Committee members and staff closed-doors access to additional material if Schiff does not move forward with his threats to hold the department in contempt.

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