White House bars Dems from Nunes meeting on probe

Justin Sink

Two House Republican leaders – and no Democrats – will meet with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats on Thursday to discuss records the lawmakers have demanded related to the Russia investigation. White House officials also won’t participate.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced the meeting on Tuesday with House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes and Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy. She said it had been arranged by Chief of Staff John Kelly, following a meeting Monday between President Donald Trump, Wray, Coats and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

She said that Kelly’s role in the meeting is “coordinating and making sure it took place” but that he didn’t plan to attend.

Nunes has demanded the Justice Department hand over records related to the Russia investigation, including the unredacted memo outlining the scope of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s authority and the name of an informant the FBI used when it began a counterintelligence investigation of Trump’s campaign in 2016.

Sanders said Democrats weren’t included in the meeting because they hadn’t requested the records themselves, and suggested reporters ask them why they should be “randomly invited.” She took questions for less than 13 minutes at her briefing on Tuesday.

Trump demanded in a tweet on Sunday that the Justice Department investigate whether the department or the FBI “infiltrated or surveilled” his campaign “for political purposes” and whether Obama administration officials were involved. There is no evidence the FBI planted an informant in his campaign.

Rosenstein responded by asking the Justice Department’s inspector general to examine the matter as part of an ongoing review of how the FBI conducted the Trump campaign investigation.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called the Kelly-organized meeting “totally inappropriate.”

“It would be inappropriate for the White House to inquire about any ongoing investigation and put pressure to direct it’s outcome,” Schumer said on Tuesday. “It’s even worse when the president and his campaign are subject to that investigation. So I think it’s very wrong and I think it shouldn’t be done. It’s unprecedented, it’s outrageous. And it has overtones of things that would be done in a banana republic.”