Washington — The Justice Department told House Republicans that there would be strict parameters limiting their ability to fully cooperate with congressional investigations into the department’s work.
In a letter Friday to the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jim Jordan, the department cited the need to ensure ongoing investigations.
“Consistent with longstanding policy and practice, all oversight requests must be weighed against the department’s interests in protecting the integrity of its work,” Assistant Attorney General Carlos Uriarte wrote. “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.”
The correspondence — the department’s first since Republicans took control of the House — was in response to a series of letters from Jordan on Jan. 17 renewing requests for information and documents related to Justice Department policies that have been under scrutiny by Republican congressional leaders over the past few years. Congress.
Citing a longstanding policy “of refusing to provide congressional committees with access to, or copies of, open law enforcement files except in extraordinary circumstances,” the department signaled to House Republicans that there will be limits to prevent any interference with ongoing investigations.
“We believe that good faith negotiations will enable us to meet the committee’s needs while protecting the department’s institutional interests,” the letter said of what is likely to be a difficult balancing act going forward.
The Judiciary Committee’s Twitter account responded: “Why is DOJ afraid to cooperate with our investigations?”
On last week’s episode of the CBS News podcast “The Takeout,” Jordan said he was prepared for backlash, telling host Major Garrett: “We know we’re going to get pushback. We know this is not going to be easy.”
He went on to say that whistleblowers in the Justice Department and its law enforcement agencies would be key to their oversight efforts.
“The Department is committed to protecting the rights of whistleblowers,” Friday’s letter responded, “and to complying with both the letter and the spirit of the Whistleblower Protection Act.”
Uriarte’s response contains one specific reference to Jordan’s Jan. 13 request for documents and communications related to the Justice Department’s handling of classified documents found at President Biden’s home and a private office he once used. In a footnote, Uriarte wrote: “We have also received your letter to the department dated January 13, 2023, and will respond under separate cover.”
The Ministry of Justice started an initial investigation into the case in November. Attorney General Merrick Garlandformer federal prosecutor , to investigate last week. Hur is expected to start the investigation by the end of the month.
Tensions between the executive branch and congressional committees of the opposing party are not new. In 2019, after taking control of the House, Democrats battled Donald Trump’s Justice Department over access to the underlying investigative material ofand over the testimony of then-White House counsel Don McGahn, among other hot-button issues. The disagreements led the relevant committees to file lawsuits that eventually granted them access to the requested information after months or years of litigation.
Read the Ministry of Justice’s letter here: