Top federal law enforcement officials huddled Wednesday afternoon with House Speaker Paul Ryan to discuss a request from congressional investigators for documents related to a dossier alleging connections between President Donald Trump and Russia, according to people familiar with the meeting.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray requested the meeting, according to Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong. A spokeswoman for the Justice Department declined to comment.
The meeting in Ryan's offices took place just hours before a deadline Wednesday that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., set for the FBI and DOJ to turn over documents related to how the agencies used information in a now-famous dossier as part of an investigation into alleged ties between Trump's campaign and Russian officials. The dossier, compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, details Trump's alleged connections to Russian officials and financiers and exploits in Moscow.
House and Senate Republicans defensive of the president have pointed to the fact that the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign paid for research that ended up in the dossier as reason to discredit it. Scrutiny of the dossier and the government's reliance on it are also part of a wider GOP effort to look at whether political bias affected the FBI's and DOJ's conduct in a series of Obama-era investigations, including the Clinton email probe.
In the House, Nunes has threatened to issue contempt citations against Wray and Rosenstein for failing to produce documents related to the dossier, which he first subpoenaed in August. In a letter obtained by Fox News last week, Nunes wrote to Rosenstein that the DOJ's and FBI's "intransigence" on those subpoenas "can no longer be tolerated," accusing both agencies of being "disingenuous at best" with the intelligence committee about the existence of documents they had requested.
A spokeswoman for Ryan, R-Wis., would not say Wednesday whether the speaker had reached an agreement with Wray and Rosenstein about the production of the requested documents. Rosenstein left the meeting Wednesday evening, refusing to answer questions from reporters as they followed him down a long hall from Ryan's suite to a door exiting the building.
Other Republicans have criticized Nunes' past threats to issue contempt citations. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., whose panel is investigating whether allegations of bias at the FBI affected the Clinton email probe, said last month that he was "interested in getting access to the information and not the drama" when asked about Nunes' contempt threats. Gowdy strongly suggested that Ryan was also critical of Nunes' efforts.
In the Senate, South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham last week reissued his call for a second special counsel to investigate the FBI's reliance on the dossier, telling Fox News that after reviewing "background" materials, he was "very disturbed about what the Department of Justice did with this dossier."
"After having looked at the history of the dossier and how it was used by the Department of Justice, I'm really very concerned," Graham said, stressing that Congress had to focus on the dossier because it was outside the purview of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe.
Graham is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has long expressed concern about how the dossier was compiled and the role it played in the FBI's investigation of alleged ties between Trump and Russian officials. Grassley and Graham jointly requested information in June about Steele's contacts with the FBI. Grassley has also said that his staff members are also in close touch with Nunes's staff about the progression of their parallel investigations.
Nunes and Grassley have also focused considerable scrutiny on Fusion GPS, the firm behind the dossier. Nunes has subpoenaed the firm's bank records - that demand is now caught up in a court battle.
On Tuesday, the founders of Fusion GPS wrote an op-ed in the New York Times pushing back on accusations that the dossier had prompted the DOJ's and FBI's scrutiny of Trump's alleged Russia ties, and accusing Republicans in Congress of perpetuating "fake investigations" into their activities.
Grassley and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., responded to the publication of that op-ed by inviting the founders to come back to Capitol Hill to testify publicly. Fusion officials have spoken to both committees behind closed doors.
Tom Hamburger and Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.