Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters
The U.S. Department of Justice told Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee on Monday it would refuse to produce confidential information about a special counsel’s investigation into the recent discovery of classified documents at Joe’s personal home and office. Biden.
The department said in a letter to the committee reviewed by the Guardian that it would not provide details of the president’s documents case – or any further investigation – as it could reveal the investigation’s track record and risk the emergence of a political conflict.
Related: Republicans accuse Biden of hypocrisy over discovery of classified documents
“Disclosure to Congress of ongoing investigations risks compromising those investigations and creating the appearance that Congress is exerting inappropriate political pressure or attempting to influence departmental decisions,” Assistant Attorney General Carlos Uriarte wrote.
The department also noted that because Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special advocate to oversee the Biden documents case, he was bound by special advocate regulations that allow certain communications at the start and end of investigations. .
“These regulations govern the conduct of the department in all special advocate investigations and will continue to govern our disclosures in this case,” wrote Uriarte, a former senior adviser to the deputy attorney general who currently heads the division who has been in contact with the Congress.
The Justice Department’s clear refusal to open its cases to the Judiciary Committee points to an uphill battle with the new House Republican majority, which has made political investigations into the Biden administration a priority for the next two years.
The Justice Department is under increasing pressure from key House and Senate lawmakers to brief them on the details of the Biden case – as well as the parallel criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s withholding of security documents national and obstruction of justice.
Garland named former prosecutor Robert Hur as special counsel to oversee the Biden case on January 12, months after appointing another top former prosecutor, Jack Smith, as special counsel to take charge of the Capitol attack. of January 6 and the investigations of the Mar-a-Lago documents. in Trump.
The Justice Department has long refused to provide Congress with confidential information that could compromise investigations or grand jury secrecy rules, as well as deliberative communications such as prosecution briefs because of the risk of political interference. in charging decisions.
As the department explained in a 2000 letter to then-House Rules Committee Chairman John Linder, its position was upheld by the Supreme Court in United States v. Nixon (1974). ) that making such documents public could have an inappropriate “chilling” effect. effect”.
The so-called Linder letter noted that the department had reaffirmed under the Reagan administration that providing congressional committees with information about criminal investigations would put Congress in a position to wield power — and undermine the integrity — of those investigations. .
The Linder letter also raised the risk of inadvertent or deliberate leaks of documents that could reveal the investigative roadmap to defendants, who could then use that information to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a potential prosecution.
Judiciary committee spokesman Russell Dye criticized the Justice Department’s response.
“Our members are rightly concerned about the Justice Department’s double standard here,” Dye said in a statement on the Biden documents affair. “It’s worrying, to say the least, that the department is more interested in playing politics than cooperating.”
Uriarte’s response to the Judiciary Committee comes a day after he told top lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee that the department would similarly refuse to provide information on classified documents in the Biden case as well as the Trump case.