The White House has invited two senior House Republicans — and no Democrats — to a Thursday briefing to facilitate access for lawmakers to information about an FBI informant involved in the investigation of Russian contacts with President Donald Trump’s campaign.
The briefing, coordinated by White House chief of staff John Kelly, was agreed to Monday when Trump met with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to discuss Congress’ demands for these classified documents.
Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, have demanded that Democratic lawmakers be included in any private discussions over access to details about the informant. Trump has suggested, without evidence, that the informant may have actually been a spy planted in his campaign to undermine his White House bid — an allegation that has enraged Democrats.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday told reporters that Democrats will not be included in the meeting because they didn’t specifically ask for details about the FBI’s informant.
“My understanding is they haven’t been the ones requesting this information,” she said, adding that it’s unclear why Democrats would “consider themselves randomly invited to see something they never asked to.”
Still, Sanders left the door slightly open to including Democrats: “We’ll keep you posted.”
Schumer immediately lashed out in response to Sanders’ remarks.
“The only thing more outrageous than this meeting occurring at all is the fact that it’s now partisan,” the New York Democrat said in a statement.
House Intelligence ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told reporters late Tuesday that he expects — but has not yet been informed of — a separate briefing for Democrats and their staff.
“This is another serious abuse of power,” he tweeted.
Historically, Republicans and Democrats have been granted similar access to information provided by the Justice Department and intelligence community. Often, this process occurs through briefings to the so-called Gang of Eight, which includes the leaders of both parties in the House and Senate, as well as the top Republicans and Democrats on each chamber’s Intelligence Committee.
“There’s a bipartisan mechanism called the Gang of 8,” Schiff tweeted. “They need to use it.”
Sanders said no White House officials would attend the meeting — Kelly’s role was entirely to arrange it.
In addition to Wray, the meeting will include two House chairmen — Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes of California and Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina — as well as Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and DOJ official Ed O’Callahan.
No senators were included on the list — though it’s unclear whether they were invited — nor was Rosenstein. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Senate Intelligence Committee Democrat, had not been invited as of late Tuesday afternoon, his office said.
Nunes has been seeking documents connected to the FBI informant but has so far been denied. The Justice Department shot down his request earlier this month, claiming that revealing the information would endanger lives and national security. But after Trump’s meeting with Wray and Rosenstein on Monday, the White House said an agreement had been reached to provide some classified information to Congress.
In his statement, Schumer chafed at Nunes’ role in the whole endeavor.
“It is crystal clear that Chairman Nunes’ intent is to interfere with the investigation, and [House] Speaker [Paul] Ryan is allowing it to happen,” Schumer said.
Sanders declined to detail the breadth of information that will be made available, referring the question to DOJ. A DOJ official said there were no additional details about the briefing to confirm yet.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump refused to answer a question about whether he still has confidence in Rosenstein, who oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling and whether there was any potential collusion with the Trump campaign
Mel Leonor contributed to this report.