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World Justice dept., pressured by Trump, seeks to speed response to congressional inquiry

The Justice Department, accused by President Donald Trump of “slow walking” its response to a congressional inquiry into the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email case,...

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Donald Trump.

(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee is examining actions by the bureau leading up to a decision in late 2016 by its director at the time, James B. Comey, to close an investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified information on her private email server.

Trump has maintained that Comey, whom he fired last year, had acted inappropriately in closing the case, and that Clinton, his opponent in the 2016 presidential race, should have been charged with a crime.

A Justice Department spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores, said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had requested the appointment over the weekend. The move was to be officially announced later on Monday, she said.

For months, Sessions has faced withering criticism from the president, who in July said on Twitter that he had “taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes.”

On Saturday, Trump lashed out at the Justice Department for missing a deadline set by the Judiciary Committee to turn over the documents. The panel is seeking, in addition to the Clinton papers, a report being finalized by the Justice Department’s inspector general that led to the firing of Andrew G. McCabe, the deputy director of the FBI.

“What does the Department of Justice and FBI have to hide? Why aren’t they giving the strongly requested documents (unredacted) to the HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE?,” Trump wrote. “Stalling, but for what reason? Not looking good!”

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., subpoenaed the Justice Department last month for the documents, setting a deadline of last Thursday.

When the department did not turn over the papers by that deadline, Republican lawmakers were quick to express their displeasure. “This is unacceptable — it’s time to stop the games,” Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina said on Twitter.

The federal prosecutor who will now oversee the process, John Lausch, will report directly to Sessions. Lausch was appointed to his prosecutor post by Trump.

As a U.S. attorney in Illinois, Lausch has worked far away from the Justice Department prosecutors and investigators in Washington who have endured a barrage of attacks on their integrity by Trump as the FBI examines ties between his campaign and Russia.

“By appointing Mr. Lausch to oversee this specific document production, our goal is to assure Congress, the president and the American people that the FBI is going to produce the relevant documents and will do so completely and with integrity and professionalism,” Flores said in a statement.

The Judiciary Committee is seeking documents that the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, has gathered as he compiles a report on the conduct of department officials during the presidential campaign.

At the time, it was investigating both Clinton’s handling of classified information while she was secretary of state and any ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Trump has claimed that department officials abused their powers by spying on a campaign official, a charge that Democrats have forcefully rebutted.

Sessions and the current FBI director, Christopher A. Wray, have said that the number of FBI staff members working on the document request has been doubled to 54 people, who are working in two shifts a day, from 8 a.m. to midnight. This week, the FBI is set to turn over another batch of documents to the committee.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

KATIE BENNER © 2018 The New York Times

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