Dems Press for Subpoena for Documents Revealing Who Improperly Classified Handwritten Notes of Top DOJ Official

May 9, 2018

Washington, D.C. (May 9, 2018)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Security, sent a letter requesting that Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy issue a subpoena to compel the Department of Justice (DOJ) to produce documents it is withholding relating to the improper classification of handwritten notes taken by top Justice Department official Dana Boente memorializing his conversation with then-FBI Director James Comey about President Donald Trump.

“It is unclear who at the Department of Justice tried to improperly classify these notes, but it is an abuse of the classification system to try to classify information merely to conceal information from the American people for political reasons, and the Department of Justice is obstructing our investigation into this abuse by withholding these documents from Congress,” they wrote.

“Our Committee has jurisdiction over federal records and has previously investigated abuses of the classification system to improperly conceal information from the American people,” the Ranking Members added.  “As you once stated on national television during the Benghazi investigation: ‘[T]here is an over classification to protect people’s reputations and careers.  And that is not a legitimate reason to classify a document, just because you are worried that it may hurt feelings or impact your career’.”

On April 10, 2018, Rachel Maddow revealed that MSBNC had obtained a copy of Mr. Boente’s handwritten notes documenting his conversation with Director Comey.  These notes are contemporaneous evidence corroborating a conversation in which Director Comey conveyed to Mr. Boente that President Trump asked Director Comey to lift the “cloud” of the Russia investigation and “to get out” that the President was not under criminal investigation.

She also obtained a letter from the FBI showing that the Department of Justice improperly classified Mr. Boente’s notes—without his consultation and without adequate justification. 

On April 11, 2018, the Ranking Members wrote to the Justice Department requesting that it produce documents relating to this matter by April 26, 2018.   The Department has not respond to that letter and has not produced any of the requested documents.

The Ranking Members are asking Gowdy to subpoena all documents and communications from within the Justice Department, with outside officials, and others relating to efforts to designate as CLASSIFIED any information contained within the handwritten notes of Mr. Boente, as well as communications and documents sufficient to show which officials at DOJ were involved in the decision.

Click here to read today’s letter.