The White House has declined to comment on this story.
President Donald Trump told members of the House Intelligence Committee that he wants congressional committees to continue to block access to documents obtained in criminal investigations by the Department of Justice, a person familiar with the President’s comments said Thursday.
“He confirmed that he thought the Department of Justice should be, in general, kept out of classified investigations,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, told CNN in a statement.
Trump asked the committee during his interview to drop probes into the matter or demand the documents to be produced, Schiff said.
“I think he meant the [Committee on] Oversight and Judiciary committees, but it was essentially our members of Congress,” Schiff said.
A former senior federal prosecutor told CNN the statement could constitute obstruction of justice if an executive branch official seeks to block an investigation.
“This statement says two things: First, if he had contempt [of Congress] he would have invoked it at a hearing. This is a clear attempt to obstruct. He is suggesting to the members of Congress that he can obstruct the ongoing investigation into the Russian government, and he is suggesting he can obstruct the ongoing investigation into crimes committed by people around him and by him,” the former federal prosecutor said.
The source said the statement made no sense if the President were considering his prosecution or not.
“People should ask their Republican colleagues, you will see them talking,” the source said.
In a statement to CNN, an attorney for former White House adviser Steve Bannon, who faces trial in October in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, indicated there is a settlement offer on the table.
“Mr. Bannon is willing to settle his case against the government on the terms that a fair trial would provide an appropriate just resolution for him and his family,” attorney Larry Klayman said.
CNN reached out to a spokesperson for the DOJ about the President’s statement.
The President said the documents he ordered the DOJ to keep from the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence are still in the government system, per people familiar with his comments.
The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is investigating improper access of classified documents.
Schiff told CNN he believes the documents being withheld aren’t criminal. “The irony here is that Mr. Bannon has been accused of something he is not guilty of,” Schiff said.
In another interview on CNN, Vice President Mike Pence said that Mueller’s probe does not affect the decision to withhold the documents from Congress.
“I’ve been very clear — the President has been very clear — President Trump’s decisions are final with respect to that probe,” Pence said Thursday on CNN’s “New Day.”
— CNN’s Matt Flegenheimer, Laura Jarrett, Katelyn Polantz, Domenico Montanaro, Jeremy Diamond, and Steve Voorhees contributed to this report.