House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes is blasting the FBI and Department of Justice for “excessive and sloppy redactions” amid efforts to unseal a redacted section having to do with the FBI’s interview of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
“The excessive and sloppy redactions applied to the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia report deny the American people the opportunity to know and understand the report’s full findings and conclusions,” Nunes told Fox News.
A key section of the report concludes FBI agents “did not detect any deception during Flynn’s interview” despite his eventual guilty plea in the special counsel’s Russia probe for making false statements.
A source familiar with the House Intelligence report told Fox News that heavily redacted sections on pages 53 and 54 back up the report’s conclusion about Flynn, and the source challenged former FBI Director James Comey’s public statements on the issue.
In his interview last week on Fox News’ “Special Report,” Comey denied that he ever told lawmakers his FBI agents didn’t believe Flynn intentionally lied.
“No, I saw that in the media,” Comey said. “Someone misunderstood something I said. I didn’t believe that and didn’t say that.”
The House Intelligence Committee report, which was disputed by Democrats and released over their objections, provides virtually no public information to back up its conclusion about Flynn’s interactions with the agents – as most of the section explaining that finding is redacted.
“The deliberate withholding of this vital information from the public is inexplicable and intolerable,” Nunes said. “Protecting executive branch officials and agencies from embarrassment is not a valid reason to hide information and will not be accepted by Congress.”
Speaking to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson after the report’s release, Nunes said it was impossible for Comey to know what investigators found because so many sections were blacked out.
“Mr. Comey probably never read our report, likely because the Department of Justice and FBI redacted so much of it, that if you go online and try to read our report, you’ll see that much of it you can’t even read,” Nunes said. “So he doesn’t know what we have.”
Among the 44 findings in the House Intelligence Committee report was a line stating that “Federal Bureau of Investigation agents did not detect any deception during Flynn's interview.”
Flynn lost his job over the Russia contacts controversy -- and as recently as December, even President Trump claimed Flynn had "lied" to agents.
But last week, Trump defended Flynn as he castigated Comey, saying Flynn’s life has been “totally destroyed” while “shadey” James Comey can “Leak and Lie” and make “lots of money” from his newly released memoir.
Meanwhile, Mueller’s team this week delayed Flynn’s sentencing for a second time, citing “the status of the special counsel’s investigation.”
The delay was one of several developments in the proceedings. Days after accepting his guilty plea, the judge assigned to the case, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Rudolph Contreras, recused himself from the case, and was replaced by Judge Emmet Sullivan.
Earlier Wednesday, President Trump lashed out at his own Justice Department, tearing into officials for not cooperating with document requests from congressional Republicans while warning he could “use the powers” of the presidency to intervene in the dispute.
The president didn’t specify the documents he says the DOJ won't release. He also didn't say which presidential powers he is referring to, though it could be anything from declassifying files to extracting documents sought by Congress to perhaps intervening in the Russia probe.
The FBI and DOJ referred Fox News’ questions about the redactions as well as the timing to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Fox News will update the reporting when comment becomes available.
Fox News’ Judson Berger contributed to this report.