Known as the “Gang of Eight,” congressional leaders were given a “taste” of what lies within the secret documents found on the properties of President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence, Rep. Jim Himes , were found in the House Intelligence Committee Democrat, he said Sunday.
The bipartisan group, made up of senior lawmakers from the House and Senate, received a long-awaited first briefing on the issue on Tuesday. In a joint interview with Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Himes, D-Conn., indicated that both were dissatisfied with the amount of information they received.
When asked if there was a difference between the classification levels of the Biden, Trump and Pence documents, Himes said the group was “not shown anything that would allow us to draw that conclusion,” adding that they would have only gotten a “taste” during the briefing.
“We have to be a bit careful here,” Himes said. “None of us are satisfied that we have received enough information to fulfill our primary responsibility of ensuring that the sources and methods have been protected. We still have more to learn before we can settle for that.”
“Having gotten a taste, this is a very serious issue,” Himes said. “It wasn’t stuff that we can clearly say doesn’t matter. It is important.”
Turner, R-Ohio., stressed that the group is taking a “holistic” view of the classified documents.
“What do we have to do to fix this? How do we deal with that? What were the risks involved?” Turner said. “We also have to understand that without a request from Congress, not even a risk assessment was carried out. We were the ones who initiated this. That’s part of the concern.”
During the interview, Turner also criticized the FBI for “not being ready” when asked if lawmakers knew about it what is in the documents of Trump, Biden and Pence.
“They don’t give us the information. They claim it will affect the outcome of their investigation, which of course can’t be because the people who are the target of their investigation know what’s in those documents,” Turner said.
One thing we do know, he added, is that “administration after administration appears to be sloppy and messy in its use of classified documents, and that’s one thing we need to address well beyond on a bipartisan basis.”
Following the Feb. 28 preliminary secret briefing for the Gang of Eight, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner, D-Va., and Vice Chair Marco Rubio, R-Fla. said there was “much to be desired let”.
“Consistent with our responsibility to oversee the intelligence community and protect our national security, we met with senior officials from the IC and the Department of Justice today to discuss disclosure of classified documents,” the statement said. “While today’s meeting helped shed some light on these issues, it left much to be desired and we will continue to press for full answers to our questions in accordance with our constitutional oversight duties.”
White House spokesman Ian Sams said the White House supports the “independent” decisions of the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence regarding the briefing.
“We support the Justice Department’s and ODNI’s decision to be transparent and offer information to Congress,” Sams said in a statement about what we’ve been saying for months: that the White House has confidence in the DOJ and the ODNI to provide independent judgment cases as to whether or when it might be appropriate for reasons of national security to provide briefings on relevant information in these investigations.”
The FBI raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in August and recovered a trove of top-secret and other top-secret documents. Secret Obama administration material was found among Biden’s vice presidential papers in a Washington office in November, the White House confirmed after CBS News first reported the discovery in January. The Justice Department found additional documents with classified markings at Biden’s Delaware home during a voluntary search. Also in January, Pence’s attorney, Greg Jacob, alerted the National Archives to classified documents discovered at the former Vice President’s Indiana home. Jacobs said Pence ordered a search following the Biden revelations.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed separate special prosecutors to examine Trump and Biden’s documents. He has not appointed a special counsel to review the Pence documents.
Trump has denied wrongdoing and last year claimed he can release documents “by thinking about it.” The White House has said the president is fully cooperating with the Justice Department investigation, and Biden has suggested that the staff who packed the boxes at the end of the Obama administration were partly responsible.
Meanwhile, Pence’s attorney said documents were “inadvertently bagged and transported to Pence’s home” at the end of the Trump administration.