The Justice Department told House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan on Monday that it could not disclose information related to the special counsel investigation into President Biden’s improper retention of classified documents because doing so could jeopardize the probe.
Jordan, R-Ohio, launched his first formal investigation as chair of the House Judiciary Committee into Biden’s “mishandling” of classified records and the DOJ’s investigation.
Jordan announced the panel’s investigation after Attorney General Merrick Garland picked former U.S. attorney Robert Hur as special counsel to investigate the matter—escalating it to a formal investigation from a mere review as more classified records were discovered at the president’s Delaware home.
In a letter to Garland, Jordan and Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., demanded answers on the appointment of a special counsel, and questioned the alleged concealment of information by the DOJ. Jordan is demanding all documents and communications regarding the appointment of Hur and between the DOJ and the FBI related to the classified materials.
On Monday, Assistant Attorney General Carlos Uriarte confirmed the DOJ’s receipt of Jordan and Johnson’s Jan. 13 letter, but explained reasoning for the agency’s noncompliance. Uriarte noted that Jordan requested “non-public information that is central to the ongoing Special Counsel investigation.”
“The Department’s longstanding policy is to maintain the confidentiality of such information regarding open matters,” Uriarte wrote Monday. “This policy protects the American people’s interest in the evenhanded, dispassionate, and effective administration of justice.”
Uriarte added that “disclosing non-public information about ongoing investigations could violate statutory requirements or court orders, reveal road maps of our investigations, and interfere with the Department’s ability to gather facts, interview witnesses, and bring criminal prosecutions where warranted.”
He added that maintaining confidentiality safeguards the “legal rights, personal safety, and privacy interests of individuals implicated by, or who assist in, our investigations.”
Uriarte said that while Congress “has a clearly legitimate interest in determining how the Department enforces statutes, Congressional inquiries during the pendency of a matter pose an inherent threat to the integrity of the Department’s law enforcement and litigation functions.”
“Disclosures to Congress about active investigations risk jeopardizing those investigations and creating the appearance that Congress may be exerting improper political pressure or attempting to influence Department decisions in certain cases,” he wrote. “Judgments about whether and how to pursue a matter are, and must remain, the exclusive responsibility of the Department.”
Uriarte cited Garland’s comments from earlier this month, when he said the appointment of Hur as special counsel underscored “the department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters, and to making decisions indisputably guided only by the facts and the law.”
“The Department’s policies regarding disclosures of information regarding open investigations serve the same ends,” he wrote.
Citing federal regulations, Uriarte explained that special counsel matters are subject to specific regulations, and “shall not be subject to the day-to-day supervision of any official of the Department.”
Uriarte said the special counsel regulations “establish procedures for disclosing certain information to Congress at the onset and conclusion of a Special Counsel investigation, including an explanation of any instances in which the Attorney General concluded that a proposed action by the Special Counsel should not be pursued because it was inappropriate or unwarranted.”
“These regulations govern the Department’s conduct in all Special Counsel investigations and will continue to govern our disclosures in this matter,” he wrote.
The White House has repeatedly declined to comment on the contents of the classified records, as well as the levels of the classification, saying instead that the records “have been turned over to proper authorities and will be part of the ongoing investigation.”