Sens. Mark Warner and Marco Rubio, the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, jointly said they spoke for their entire committee in demanding access to documents found in the possession of President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.
“I don’t know how congressional oversight on the documents, actually knowing what they are, in any way impedes an investigation,” Rubio (R-Fla.) said in an interview that aired Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” referring to the ongoing Justice Department investigations of the storage and handling of the documents.
The conversation highlighted what the senators characterized as an urgent need to understand whether the recent document discoveries associated with Trump and Biden pose a risk to national security.
Sets of documents found last year at Trump’s residence in Mar-a-Lago and at locations associated with Biden in the past several months included classified material, and Rubio and Warner (D-Va.) said they had a right to know the content to the extent that it could affect national security.
The most immediate issue is determining whether the Trump and Biden documents contained sources and methods for gathering intelligence, or even if they were current enough to pose a threat to national security, Warner said.
“We are united in we have to find a way to do our job. That means we need these documents,” Warner said.
The members of Congress are not interested in individual criminal justice matters, Rubio said.
“We’re not interested in the timeline, the tick-tock, the who-got-what, who-did-that,” he said.
And as members of Congress who have access to classified materials, the senators might already have access to the specific documents, but they “just don’t know which ones they are,” he added.
The Justice Department told the Senate Intelligence Committee in a letter dated Saturday and obtained by POLITICO that prosecutors were actively working to find ways to share information with the intelligence panel, though DOJ practice constricted the amount of information that could be shared about ongoing investigations like the special prosecutor probes in the case of Trump and Biden.
“We are working with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to support the provision of information that will satisfy the Committee’s responsibilities without harming the ongoing Special Counsel investigations,” wrote Carlos Uriarte, DOJ’s legislative affairs chief, in a two-page letter.
DOJ had separately informed the House Judiciary Committee earlier in January that it would be unlikely to share information about ongoing investigations sought by Hill Republicans.
While Warner acknowledged that Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines is in charge of classification issues, he said Congress could take broad action by writing guidance on classification for executive agencies.
For his part, Rubio said he’d prefer not to “go down that road” of withholding funds from agencies involved. But, he added: “We’re not going to sit here and just issue press releases all day.”
As for the classified documents turned over from former Vice President Mike Pence’s home, Warner said: “We’ve not really focused as much on the Pence documents, but who knows what additional shoes may fall.”