The Department of Justice has shared copies of the so-called Comey memos with congressional leaders.
In a letter addressed to House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on Thursday, the agency said it was releasing both redacted and unredacted versions of the documents to lawmakers.
The unredacted documents are “classified,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd, and would be available for viewing in the House Security office by members of the three congressional committees starting Friday.
News of the release comes just a day after Goodlatte suggested he’d subpoena the DOJ to obtain the seven memos, in which former FBI chief James Comey detailed his interactions with President Donald Trump.
Goodlatte, Nunes and Gowdy have been putting pressure on the agency to release the memos. Last Friday, they demanded that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein provide access to unredacted copies of the documents.
The three Republican leaders have also sought the release of other sensitive documents related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election meddling and the FBI investigation into former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s email server.
In a Monday letter, Rosenstein had asked for more time to “evaluate the consequences” of providing such access, noting that “one or more of the memos may relate to an ongoing investigation, may contain classified information, and may report confidential Presidential communications.”
In his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last year, Comey said the memos contained his personal recollections of his conversations with Trump. He admitted at the time to having leaked details from the documents, including an encounter during which the president allegedly urged him to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The memos’ content, however, is mostly unknown — and may contain useful evidence for Mueller’s Russia probe, particularly in relation to whether Trump obstructed justice. Questions have thus been raised as to whether releasing the memos to Congress could interfere with the investigation.
Democrats have suggested that GOP demands for the memos are a ploy to undermine Rosenstein and Mueller.
“The Deputy Attorney General should be aware that no matter what he gives to these members of Congress, it will never be enough,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent on Wednesday. “The point is to create a conflict with the Justice Department that would give the president grounds to get rid of Mueller or Rosenstein. They don’t care what damage they do to our institutions to protect the president.”
In his letter to lawmakers on Thursday, Boyd said recent “unusual events” had prompted a discussion about releasing the memos, but stressed that the DOJ had “consulted the relevant parties and concluded that the release of the memoranda to Congress at this time would not adversely impact any ongoing investigation.”
The battle over the Comey memos comes as the fired FBI chief’s tell-all memoir hit shelves. In the book, Comey accuses Trump of being “unethical” and “untethered to truth and institutional values.”
Trump lashed out at Comey following the memoir’s release, calling him “the worst FBI Director in history.”
This story has been updated with information about the memos’ release on Thursday.