House Judiciary threatened to have Capitol Police remove FBI lawyer from office building during confrontation with witness
Republicans have alleged that Agent Chan was involved with a Justice Department effort to censor conservative voices on social media. If you’ll remember, it was during the entire ‘Twitter Files’ debacle that former Twitter rep Yeol Roth testified that he was “uncomfortable with the nature of the things Agent Elvis Chan was asking him to do.”
Larry Berger, the personal lawyer representing Chan, issued a public statement after the incident saying the committee insisted that Chan could be accompanied by either an FBI lawyer or his personal lawyer, but not both. Berger, a lawyer who has long represented federal agents, said the demand was unusual and not a common practice of congressional committees.
“The question is, why do we have this seemingly arbitrary distinction being made by the committee, and why are they interfering with his choice of attorneys?” said Berger.
Chan insisted on having both lawyers with him – which Berger said was unsurprising in this instance because Chan has been named in lawsuits stemming from his FBI work on social media.
The committee did not back down, and at one point a person on the committee went as far as suggesting they would summon the Capitol Police to remove the FBI lawyer from the Rayburn Building, where the interview was to take place, Berger said.
Berger said Chan “was at all times ready willing and able to participate in this scheduled voluntary interview.”
An FBI spokesperson said in a statement that Chan was “denied the right to have his chosen legal counsel accompany him” and then House Committee staff told his FBI lawyer to “leave the premises.”
“This is a significant departure from normal procedures and an unnecessary escalation of this Committee’s treatment of FBI officials,” the spokesperson said. “The FBI employee remains willing to take part in a voluntary interview with appropriate legal representation.”
Russell Dye, a spokesman for the committee, argued that the committee’s request was not unusual, calling it “long-standing Committee practice across Republican and Democrat majorities” to allow witnesses to choose between a personal lawyer or one provided by their agency.
“The Department of Justice knew exactly what they were doing today by trying to force themselves in the room,” he said.
Emails reviewed by The Veracity Report show that committee staff actually informed Berger on Thursday evening that Chan would only be allowed one lawyer during the interview. Berger responded by indicating that he would accompany Chan to the session, the email exchange shows.
Meanwhile, the committee also tangled with the Justice Department this week as Republicans pressed for interviews with more mid-level officials who have been involved with the criminal investigation of Biden’s son Hunter.
House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) this week issued subpoenas for two lower-level Justice Department officials who have been involved with an investigation of Hunter Biden’s taxes, senior litigation counsel Mark Daly and Jack Morgan, an attorney in the department’s tax division.
When the Justice Department instead offered to let the committee interview more senior officials, including U.S. Attorney for D.C. Matthew Graves, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California E. Martin Estrada, and acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, on a voluntary basis, Jordan balked.
Officials have said the two U.S. attorneys declined to pursue tax-related charges against the president’s son after they were approached by David Weiss, the U.S. attorney for Delaware, who was leading the investigation.
Hunter Biden was indicted this week for allegedly making false statements and illegally possessing a handgun, following the collapse of a plea deal he had been negotiating with Weiss in July. The indictment came after Weiss sought and received special counsel status from the Justice Department in the aftermath of the breakdown in the plea negotiations, and after two IRS agents involved in the case became whistleblowers and told a congressional committee over the summer that Weiss and his office had stymied and drawn out the investigation over many months.
A spokesperson for Jordan said the committee expects to hear from all 11 people they originally issued requests for over the summer — including Graves and Estrada — and would not accept interviews with some of their requested witnesses and not others.
Dye, the committee spokesman, said it was “completely false” that the committee had turned down interview offers. “We want to hear from every witness we have asked for,” he said.
The Justice Department, however, has maintained a long-standing department practice of shielding line attorneys involved with ongoing investigations from Congress, leading to a growing standoff.
Of course, this is a developing story and you can count on The Veracity Report to provide you prompt updates as new information becomes available. Meanwhile, be sure to frequently check our website at www.veracityreport.org for more information and greater detail regarding this and other cases.