WASHINGTON – Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee today engaged in an impromptu bipartisan discussion about the Justice Department’s repeated failures to respond to congressional oversight inquiries from Republicans and Democrats alike.  The discussion was kicked off by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who called for a better flow of information pursuant to his oversight inquiries.
“There is something going on over there [at the Justice Department] that looks an awful lot like a formal policy not to answer our questions. … We are going to have to come to a proper resolution of this so that the oversight capacity of all of us as senators is not completely blunted by blockades in the executive branch,” Whitehouse said.
“I’ve been trying to get a phone call with the attorney general for more than a month now, and all I want to do is get an update on my request for information – answers to letters. And particularly, because we might get an answer to a letter, but we never get any of the documents we want,” Grassley said.
Grassley specifically noted FBI Director Chris Wray’s refusal to provide an explanation or records related to a 2020 FBI briefing that later leaked to the news media. Wray also refused to meet in-person with Grassley to discuss the briefing.
Both senators pointed out that failures by the Justice Department and its component agencies to fully and timely cooperate with Congress’ constitutional oversight prerogatives is not new. Resistance to oversight inquiries from both sides of the aisle has been a common theme across administrations, but it must be addressed.
“Senator Grassley and Senator Whitehouse, I think you raise legitimate concerns and I’d suggest that instead of waiting for emails or letters to clear, we get to the bottom of this. Let’s agree that sometime before we leave next week, we will try to create a phone conference conversation with the attorney general and the head of the FBI to address this issue.  You both have raised it repeatedly, and I think it deserves our attention as a committee, and I invite any other members who want to be part of it to join in that,” Durbin said.