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White House backs Sessions as some House Republicans push to hold him in contempt

Conservatives in the House of Representatives are making a push to hold ...

Posted: May 8, 2018 11:03 AM
Updated: May 8, 2018 11:03 AM

Conservatives in the House of Representatives are making a push to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt of Congress for failing to hand over documents related to the Russia investigation, but a senior White House official said Monday evening the administration is backing Sessions.

"I think we are supportive of our Cabinet," White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told CNN, though he acknowledged Hill "frustration" with the Justice Department over records.

Short would not say if the Justice Department should hand over the documents but when asked if the House should back off, he added again: "I think we are supportive of our Cabinet."

The fight has sparked concern among Democrats -- and some Republicans -- that Trump allies on Capitol Hill are seeking to interfere with special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, believing a contempt resolution could be used by Trump as a pretext to fire Sessions and install a new attorney general who is not recused from the investigation. Short's comments are a notable contrast from the White House with Trump's extensive, public criticism of the Justice Department and Sessions specifically.

House Speaker Paul Ryan also appears noncommittal so far of the effort by House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, to hold Sessions in contempt.

"This is not something the chairman has discussed with the speaker," AshLee Strong, spokeswoman for Ryan, said Monday when asked if the speaker supported the effort.

Nunes launched the latest contempt threat to Sessions on Sunday on "Fox and Friends," and sources tell CNN that House Republicans want to hold a vote over the next several days.

The clash over records involves a "specific individual," according to a letter obtained by CNN, and it relates to the Russia investigation -- which Sessions is recused from.

Nunes has called the request "very important," but the Justice Department says turning over the materials could risk lives and sources, and could compromise ongoing criminal investigations.

Speaking in San Diego, California, on Monday, Sessions said the Justice Department has told Nunes his request goes too far but that the department would be willing to talk about to him about it.

"The Department of Justice has written him a letter and responded as appropriate to him. The request he's made is one that the intelligence communities and Department of Justice feels is not grantable," Sessions said. "We have explained that we would like -- we would be willing to talk to him about it before, the details of which I couldn't discuss."

In a rare gaggle with reporters at the Capitol on Monday night, Nunes said he heard Sessions' response, adding that a time is being worked out for them to talk but it won't be as soon as Monday night. Nunes also said he doesn't think the White House and the Justice Department are on the same page over the issue, despite Short's comments, and said he hadn't spoken to Ryan about holding Sessions in contempt. Nunes also disputed the characterization that his comments to Fox on Sunday amounted to a threat.

"It wasn't a threat," Nunes said. "It's what's going to happen."

In the past, Ryan and the White House have backed Nunes' document requests, resulting in lawmakers being given access to a significant amount of classified materials.

In this latest dust-up, the department has offered to discuss whether there are other ways to accommodate Nunes' request, but it has yet to hear from the California Republican, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Rep. Mike Conaway, the Texas Republican who led the House's Russia investigation, said it was "premature" to be discussing contempt.

"We expect our subpoenas to be complied with and we'll see what happens," he said.

But Rep. Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican on the Intelligence panel, said he was open to contempt if it was necessary to obtain the information.

"I would support whatever tools we have available," Stewart said. "There's no reason in the world for this information not to be available."

Stewart pointed to the initial redactions of former FBI Director James Comey's testimony on Michael Flynn's FBI interview in the House GOP's Russia report. The information was declassified in the latest version of the report, and Stewart said it was another sign of the administration using redactions to protect the FBI.

Ohio GOP Rep. Brad Wenstrup also backed Nunes, emphasizing that Congress has oversight over the Justice Department.

"If we're going to be a government of the people, then the people that represent the people have oversight over these agencies," Wenstrup said. "We have subpoena power. They should respond to the subpoena," he added. "Or else how can we really tell the American people what's going on in the government?"

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 263023

Reported Deaths: 5752
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17675191
Hinds16813331
Harrison14224204
Rankin11167219
Jackson10839190
Lee9050144
Madison8568168
Jones6668114
Forrest6177124
Lauderdale6097192
Lowndes5518120
Lafayette516298
Lamar503965
Washington4923125
Bolivar4104109
Oktibbeha405982
Panola384881
Pontotoc376258
Warren3674103
Monroe3671108
Union355663
Marshall355270
Neshoba3485154
Pearl River3468105
Leflore3111109
Lincoln305688
Hancock291862
Sunflower291475
Tate279662
Alcorn272354
Pike268981
Itawamba268063
Scott259648
Yazoo255256
Prentiss252553
Tippah249250
Copiah249049
Coahoma248054
Simpson242171
Leake237367
Grenada223272
Marion222073
Covington219973
Adams213671
Wayne212634
Winston207371
George204339
Newton199046
Attala196963
Tishomingo194161
Chickasaw189044
Jasper179538
Holmes171768
Clay165837
Tallahatchie156235
Stone151425
Clarke147262
Calhoun140822
Smith129226
Yalobusha122034
Walthall114337
Greene113529
Noxubee112926
Montgomery111636
Carroll106622
Lawrence106517
Perry104531
Amite101426
Webster96124
Tunica88821
Claiborne88325
Jefferson Davis88329
Benton85623
Humphreys84624
Kemper80520
Quitman7089
Franklin69917
Choctaw63213
Wilkinson59825
Jefferson56821
Sharkey45117
Issaquena1606
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 439442

Reported Deaths: 6657
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson644371007
Mobile31435569
Madison28158217
Tuscaloosa21492275
Montgomery19873332
Shelby19248132
Baldwin17128189
Lee13137107
Morgan12594142
Etowah12070181
Calhoun11496206
Marshall10420123
Houston8988164
Limestone832081
Cullman8257124
Elmore8183110
DeKalb7871107
Lauderdale7847107
St. Clair7808130
Talladega6445112
Walker6028183
Jackson599145
Colbert548694
Blount546286
Autauga535862
Coffee460764
Dale409685
Franklin374150
Russell354215
Chilton344373
Covington338580
Escambia334544
Tallapoosa3143109
Dallas312996
Chambers303470
Clarke298036
Pike262431
Lawrence253355
Marion253161
Winston233342
Bibb222348
Geneva210247
Marengo208231
Pickens199531
Hale184944
Barbour180538
Fayette177829
Butler173160
Cherokee165131
Henry159525
Monroe152021
Randolph145536
Washington141727
Clay129746
Crenshaw123745
Macon121937
Cleburne121525
Lamar119922
Lowndes114836
Wilcox107922
Bullock103328
Perry99918
Conecuh97822
Sumter90527
Greene77923
Coosa63418
Choctaw51924
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