Joe Biden’s Justice Department has come up with a novel legal theory about cooperating with the various House committees in their investigations. Essentially, it’s telling committee chairs to kiss its bony arse if they want information about any investigations being undertaken by DOJ.
“Consistent with longstanding policy and practice, any oversight requests must be weighed against the Department’s interests in protecting the integrity of its work,” Carlos Uriarte, DOJ’s legislative affairs chief, wrote in the five-page letter. “Longstanding Department policy prevents us from confirming or denying the existence of pending investigations in response to congressional requests or providing non-public information about our investigations.”
In other words, we’ll be happy to forward any press releases from our public affairs office, but beyond that, you can go pound sand.
The letter, addressed to Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), acknowledges the GOP’s multiple requests for information during the last Congress but doesn’t divulge any new information. Instead, Uriarte outlines how he hopes DOJ could have a “productive relationship” with Republicans in the new Congress, as Jordan had in previous letters accused the DOJ of “stonewalling” their requests, raised the possibility of a subpoena and said the committee could resort to “compulsory practices” to obtain the requested information and documents.
It’s an early marker of DOJ’s position as Republicans pledge to probe President Joe Biden’s administration over a laundry list of issues, including with a select subpanel that has a broad mandate to investigate the federal government. Conservatives have hinted they would use that panel to try to look into certain ongoing law enforcement investigations.
The DOJ letter tried to cite precedent, pointing to a 1982 directive from President Ronald Reagan that stated the White House would try to avoid executive privilege, reserving it for use “only in the most compelling circumstances.” Of course, this is baloney. You can tell because, first, the DOJ cited precedent from an opposition party president; and two, the White House has been stonewalling Republican requests for information for two years. Just because the GOP is in the majority now won’t matter to any Democrat.
DOJ also outlined guidance for potential hearings House Republicans might call, including which Justice Department staff might be able to testify. Citing a 2000 DOJ letter to Congress, Urirate wrote that DOJ would not be making line agents or attorneys involved in everyday casework available to testify and instead would direct inquiries to supervising officials.
“We are available to engage in staff-level meetings to determine which information requests incorporated into your recent letters reflect the Committee’s current priorities in light of prior Department responses and disclosures,” Uriarte said.
Who’s in charge of these investigations, anyway? Shouldn’t Congress decide who testifies? Shouldn’t Congress decide the “committee’s current priorities?” It’s a clever tactic, but it also reveals what Republicans are up against as their investigations get underway. The Biden Justice Department is going to play the long game and look to run out the clock on Republican investigations.
And they’re going to drag their heels on every request for information from Republicans.