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Gang of Eight received ‘preview’ of what’s in Trump, Pence and Biden docs, Himes says


Congressional leaders known as the ‘Gang of Eight’ have ‘got a taste’ of what’s in the classified documents found on the properties of President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump and President Donald Trump. former Vice President Mike Pence, House Intelligence’s top Democrat. Committee said Sunday.

The bipartisan group, made up of senior House and Senate lawmakers, agreed to the first expected briefing on the issue on Tuesday. In a joint interview with Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio, on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut, indicated the two were unhappy. the level of information they received. .

When asked if there was a distinction between the classification levels of the Biden, Trump and Pence documents, Himes said the group “hasn’t shown anything that would allow us to draw that conclusion,” adding that they had only gotten a “flavor” during the debrief.

“We have to be a little careful here,” Himes said. “None of us are confident that we have obtained enough information to carry out our primary responsibility of ensuring that sources and methods have been protected. We have more to learn before we can be satisfied with this.

“Having received a flavor is a very serious issue,” Himes said. “It wasn’t things that we can clearly say don’t matter. It does matter.”

Turner stressed that when it comes to classified documents, the group is looking at the matter “holistically.”

“What should we do to solve this problem? How to solve this problem ? What were the risks involved? said Turner. “We also have to understand that without Congress asking for it, there wasn’t even a risk assessment. We initiated this. That’s part of the concern. »

Turner also criticized the FBI for “not being open” when asked if lawmakers knew what’s in the Trump, Biden and Pence documents.

“They don’t give us the information. They claim it’s going to affect the outcome of their investigation, which of course it can’t, because the people who are the targets of their investigation know what’s in those documents,” Turner said.

One known thing, he added, is that “administration after administration is seemingly sloppy and haphazard in its use of classified documents, and that’s something on a bipartisan basis that we need to address far beyond that”.

After the Feb. 28 classified preliminary briefing at the Gang of Eight, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., and Vice Chairman Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said it “leaves a lot to be desired”.

“Consistent with our responsibility to oversee the intelligence community and protect our national security, we met today with leaders from the IC and the Department of Justice to discuss the exposure of classified documents,” they said. said in a statement. “While today’s meeting shed some light on these issues, it left much to be desired and we will continue to press for full answers to our questions consistent with our constitutional oversight obligations.”

White House spokesman Ian Sams said the White House supports the “independent” decisions of the Justice Department and the Office of the National Director of Intelligence regarding the briefing.

“We support the Justice Department and ODNI’s decision to be transparent and provide information to Congress,” Sams said in a statement. “The decision to inform and the determination of the content to inform were made by the DOJ and ODNI independently, consistent with what we have been saying for months: that the White House trusts the DOJ and ODNI to exercise independent judgment on whether or when it may be appropriate, for national security reasons, to offer briefings on any relevant information in such investigations.

The FBI recovered a treasure trove of top secret and other highly classified documents when it searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida in August. Classified Obama administration documents were found among Biden’s vice presidential papers in a Washington office in November, the White House acknowledged after CBS News first reported the find in January. The Justice Department found additional documents with classified marks at Biden’s home in Delaware during a voluntary search. Also in January, Pence’s attorney, Greg Jacob, alerted the National Archives to classified documents discovered at the former vice president’s home in Indiana. Jacobs said Pence ordered a search to be undertaken after Biden’s disclosures.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed separate special advocates to investigate the Trump and Biden documents. He did not appoint a special advocate to review the Pence documents.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing, having claimed last year that he could declassify documents “on second thought.” The White House said Biden was cooperating fully with the Justice Department’s investigation, and Biden suggested that staffers who packed the boxes at the end of the Obama administration were partly responsible.

Meanwhile, Pence’s attorney said documents were “boxed and inadvertently transported” to Pence’s home at the end of the Trump administration.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.