On Thursday, two White House officials, including a lawyer who represents President Trump, attended meetings with top law enforcement officials about documents related to the ongoing investigation of Trump and his campaign. Two days ago, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters no one from the White House would attend.
The topic of the meeting was a subpeona by Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA) for “all documents referencing or related” to an informant who spoke to members of the Trump campaign during the FBI’s counter-intelligence investigation of Russian interference with the election. Nunes also attended the meeting on Thursday.
The Department of Justice has resisted the subpoena, arguing that it would compromise special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation. They agreed to the meeting after Trump personally intervened earlier this week.
Also attending the meeting were FBI Director Christopher Wray, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Edward O’Callaghan, a top Justice Department Official.
Nunes, at least officially, was requesting the documents in his role of Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which has the power to conduct oversight over the intelligence community. But Nunes has also operated effectively as a political operative for Trump.
To ease concerns that the meeting was merely a fishing expedition to help Trump discredit the Mueller investigation and defend himself from potential legal jeopardy Sarah Sanders assured reporters on Tuesday that no one from the White House would attend the meeting with Nunes.
Q Thanks, Sarah. I want to ask about this meeting the Chief of Staff is setting up with lawmakers regarding the documents that they requested about the Russia investigation. Can you say what specific documents the lawmakers will be allowed to see? Chairman Nunes has requested all documents related to this intelligence source. Will he get to see all of the documents?
SANDERS: That’s something that you would have to ask the Department of Justice. I can tell you the President asked Chief of Staff Kelly to set up the meeting. It is scheduled to take place on Thursday of this week. The individuals that are expected to attend are Chairman Nunes, Chairman Gowdy, FBI Director Wray, DNI Director Coats, and DOJ official Ed O’Callaghan. No one from the White House staff will attend.
That was untrue. White House attorney Emmett Flood attended the meeting with Nunes. Flood was brought into the White House earlier this month. At the time of his hiring, Sanders said that Flood’s job was to “to represent the president and the administration against the Russia witch hunt.”
So now it is clear. Nunes is using his oversight powers as a means of providing access to documents related to an ongoing investigation involving Trump. There was always a possibility, even a likelihood, that Nunes would share this information with Trump. But Nunes isn’t even bothering to pretend like the request has a legitimate purpose. He invited Trump’s attorney, whose job is to defend him in the investigation, to the meeting.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly also reportedly attended the meeting. Flood also attended a second meeting with law enforcement officials on the same topic with a different group of lawmakers.
@tedbarrettcnn spots Flood entering the Senate for the Gang of Eight meeting. The WH attorney dealing with Russia probe attended both briefings today for at least part of the time, despite the WH saying this week no WH official would attend pic.twitter.com/4RUbGg7E6r
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 24, 2018
On Thursday, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, said that Trump would not agree to an interview with Mueller unless he receives the information as well. Giuliani acknowledged that the demand is irregular and as “as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, he never would have turned over all of his investigatory material to a potential target.”
RUDY tells @dsamuelsohn that today’s briefing will inform Trump’s legal defense:
“We want to see how the briefing went to today and how much we learned from it. If we learned a good deal from it, it will shorten that whole process considerably.”
Exactly what Dems feared.
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) May 24, 2018
Trump has sought to cast the existence of an FBI informant, which is not unusual, as a major scandal that discredits Mueller’s investigation. In a tweet Thursday morning he called it “one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history.”
UPDATE: White House confirms that the Kelly and Flood attended the meeting but said they left early and the meeting didn’t really start until after they left.
Sarah Sanders says “neither Chief Kelly nor Mr. Flood actually attended the meetings but did make brief remarks before the meetings started to relay the President’s desire for as much openness as possible under the law.” pic.twitter.com/ikcd9Rl8iK
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) May 24, 2018