Context (highlight mine):

But House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), one of Trump’s leading allies on the Hill, privately urged Republican colleagues Tuesday to consider holding Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray in contempt of Congress if the Justice Department does not provide him with documents he has sought about the Russia probe in coming days.

[…] Nunes has also spoken in the past week with members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which has been supportive of Trump, about how a potential contempt effort could unfold. He has not yet spoken with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) about possibly moving forward, the two people said.The Washington Post

In my naive understanding, the close allies of a subject¹ of a criminal probe are trying to get access to temporary documents that contain facts that the investigation has already established (and — most importantly — what has not been established yet).

These allies submit an official Congress inquiry to the DOJ, or else they threaten to accuse the DOJ of contempt of Congress.

Most obviously, since these Congressmen are "leading allies" and "been supportive" of the subject, they can be tempted to disclose the materials to the subject of the investigation. Which, in turn, would let him hide evidence, build up the defense strategy, threaten the witnesses, and so on.

Question: Is there any provision that regulates some kind of Non-Disclosure agreement to be signed by those who submit such demands? If so, how is the possible violation being prosecuted?

I am aware of the recent move of Rosenstein who refers to a similar case when in 1941, when Attorney General Robert Jackson investigated a corruption scandal in the US Navy. He refused Congressman Carl Vinson's demand to disclose the documents of the investigation, arguing, among other things, the possibility of disclosure to the enemies:

Second, disclosing certain investigative reports would give aid to our enemies and jeopardize our national security.

This makes me thinking that in 1941, there was no regulation of non-disclosure. So, have any been adopted since then?

¹) subject, not a target;

1 Answer 1


Congress does have a right to the documents in so far as they are acting as oversight on the Executive Branch (of which, DOJ is a subset) and as a check that the money they authorized each department is being properly spent. While I don't know what the climate was like in 1941, keep in mind one of the failures of Intelligence back then that lead to Pearl Harbor was the White House was taken off the list of agencies that could see Japanese intel... We also know that there were several big shake ups in the relationship between the various branches following the war (The President was not seen as someone who could be corrupt until Nixon did it during Watergate... there was more trust back then. Also Hoover's leadership style was unknown).

This is not the first time that DOJ members were held in contempt of congress for not turning over documents. Eric Holder was held in contempt (and was the first) for the same reason and impeachment documents were being drawn up around the time he resigned.

Congress does have a right to investigate the DOJ and any material related to their activities under oversight, political alligence be damned. The fact that they are making these threats to Rosenstien is telling, as his career was praised on both sides of the aisle. He's one of few Bush era appointees that Obama liked enough to appoint. His reputation as a fair and even handed prosecutor is quite strong in D.C. so a threat of impeachment carries some political weight against Nunes.

  • I do not fully understand the so a threat of impeachment [of Rosenstein] carries some political weight against Nunes sentence. Maybe you mean political cost for Nunes? Otherwise, I do not understand what that weight is; usually I understand political weight as influence and as "the political weight of X", not "the political weight against Y".
    – SJuan76
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 18:09
  • Also, this question does not seem to answer the OP's question.
    – SJuan76
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 18:15

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