Senators vowed to push back against the Biden administration for refusing to provide access to classified documents found at the residences of two presidents.
Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee left a classified briefing Wednesday with Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines in an uproar, arguing they are being prevented from performing their congressional oversight duties for the sake of national security.
As reported by CNN, Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) warned “all things will be on the table” to gain access to the documents as the committee was united in wanting to know “if there’s been any intelligence compromised.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed special counsels to investigate former President Donald Trump’s and President Joe Biden’s handling of documents, which senators said was the justification the intelligence community gave to withhold information from Congress.
“The bottom line is this: They won’t tell us what they have until the special counsel allows them to tell us. That’s an unacceptable position,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to NBC News.
Lawmakers have been pressing the intelligence community to conduct damage assessments since the FBI raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort last year. The sense of urgency has only grown since classified materials were found in recent months at President Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware, residence and think tank office in Washington, D.C., dating back to his time as a senator and vice president. Last week, the public learned classified documents were also discovered at the home of former Vice President Mike Pence.
Accusing the Biden administration of “stonewalling” Congress, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) signaled he is ready to turn up the “pain” by holding up Biden’s nominees — a strategy he’s used in the past — or withholding budgetary funds, according to The Hill.
“I’m prepared to refuse consent to fast-track any nominee from any department or agency and to take every step that I can on every committee on which I serve to impose consequences on the administration until they provide these documents,” said Cotton, who is also a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Haines has yet to comment publicly on the standoff with senators, but she did talk Thursday about preserving “confidence” in the intelligence community’s work by conducting briefings with Congress on a bipartisan basis.
During a speech at the LBJ Presidential Library, Haines insisted she tries to emphasize “what we’re doing is for the nation and not for politics,” according to The Washington Examiner. She also said: “If the public doesn’t trust us and believes that we are biased politically or otherwise frankly in a way that is illegitimate, then people won’t pay attention to the warnings that we have — it makes us less effective from a national security perspective.”