Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is seeking more time to consider giving three House committees copies of memos that former FBI Director James Comey said he wrote about his meetings with President Donald Trump.
In a letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Intelligence’s Devin Nunes and Oversight and Government Reform’s Trey Gowdy, Rosenstein wrote that while some of the contents of the memos have already been made public, one or more of them may contain information about an active investigation or classified content or confidential presidential communications.
“We have a legal duty to evaluate the consequences of providing access to them,” Rosenstein wrote in the letter dated Monday, the deadline the committees set for a response.
Rosenstein also told the committee chairmen that the department is committed to working cooperatively to accommodate “what we believe to be an unprecedented volume of congressional document requests.”
The Republicans requested the memos days before Comey’s memoir, “A Higher Loyalty,” was released this week. Democrats on the Judiciary Committee had made a similar request last year, but Republicans on the committee blocked it.
The memos also have been the subject of multiple Freedom of Information Act requests from outside of Congress, including by news organizations. But U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington ruled in February that such a public release would likely interfere with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race.
Rosenstein is overseeing Mueller’s investigation.
In their letter to Rosenstein on Friday, the three chairmen said, “There is no legal basis for withholding these materials from Congress.”
Comey has said he wrote the memos after his conversations with Trump. He testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee that Trump asked him in February 2017 to shut down the federal investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Trump fired Comey in May 2017.
Some House Select Intelligence Committee members were allowed to read the memos in a secure location. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley’s staff has seen seven Comey memos in a secure location at the FBI, he wrote in January.
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