Amid all the happy hoopla over President Donald Trump’s trip to Singapore, where he began the process for what he hopes will be the normalization of relations between the United States and North Korea and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, has come an effort by the House Intelligence Committee to interfere with the criminal investigation of the president.
The committee’s chairman, Devin Nunes, a Republican from California, and the Republican majority on the committee have demanded that the Department of Justice turn over documents pertaining to the origins of the investigation of President Trump by special counsel Robert Mueller.
And Nunes has threatened Mueller’s superior, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, with censure, contempt and even impeachment if he fails to comply. Can Congress interfere in an ongoing federal criminal investigation? Can it get its eyes on law enforcement’s active files? In a word: No.
Here is the back story.
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In the pre-9/11 era, when the FBI and the DOJ devoted their work primarily to investigating criminal activity, they both answered not only to the president but also to the House and Senate Judiciary committees. This long-standing relationship came about by way of a check on the exercise of prosecutorial power by the DOJ and the FBI.
These congressional committees approve the budget for law enforcement, the argument went, and as watchdogs, so to speak, they are entitled to know how the taxpayers’ money — and money borrowed in the taxpayers’ name — is being spent.
The relationship between the congressional committees on one hand and federal law enforcement on the other has…