DOJ reserves the right not to cooperate with certain House GOP requests

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The Justice Department is signaling that it has the right not to cooperate with Hill Republicans’ requests to look into their ongoing investigations, a top official wrote in a letter obtained by POLITICO.

“Consistent with longstanding policy and practice, all oversight requests must be balanced against the interests of the Department in protecting the integrity of its work,” Carlos Uriarte, DOJ’s chief of legislative affairs, wrote in the five-page letter. “The department’s long-standing policy prevents us from confirming or denying the existence of ongoing investigations in response to congressional requests or from providing non-public information about our investigations.”

The letter, addressed to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), acknowledges the GOP’s many requests for information during the last Congress, but does not reveal any new information. Instead, Uriarte outlines how he hopes DOJ can have a “productive relationship” with Republicans in the new Congress, as Jordan had accused the DOJ of “holding back” their requests in previous letters, raised the possibility of a subpoena and said the commission could resort to “mandatory practices” to obtain the requested information and documents.

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It’s an early marker of DOJ’s position as Republicans vow to investigate President Joe Biden’s administration for a laundry list of issues, including with a select subpanel that has a broad mandate to investigate the federal government. Conservatives have hinted they would use that panel to investigate certain ongoing law enforcement investigations.

The Justice Department letter cites a 1982 directive from President Ronald Reagan that emphasized that the administration would seek to respond to congressional requests for oversight and avoidance of invoking executive privilege , and would reserve it for use “only in the most compelling circumstances”. Uriarte, an assistant attorney general, said DOJ would respect the commission’s “legitimate efforts” to seek information, “consistent with our obligation to protect the executive branch’s confidentiality interests.”

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DOJ also outlined guidelines for potential hearings House Republicans might hold, including which Justice Department employees might testify. Citing a 2000 DOJ letter to Congress, Urirate wrote that DOJ would not make line agents or attorneys involved in everyday affairs available to testify, but would instead ask questions of oversight officials.

“We are available to participate in staff-level meetings to determine which information requests included in your recent letters reflect the committee’s current priorities in light of previous department responses and disclosures,” Uriarte said.

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A Jordan spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.

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