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Washington • The FBI said Thursday that because of the appointment of a new special counsel to investigate Russia's interference in the U.S. election, the agency was still reviewing Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz's request for any documents relating to conversations between former FBI Director James Comey and President Donald Trump.
The FBI was supposed to turn over those documents Wednesday.
In response, Chaffetz, R-Utah, doubled down and expanded his request, asking for "all memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings" of Comey's conversations with Trump, then-President Barack Obama, the attorney general and deputy attorney general dating back to September 2013.
The FBI said in a letter to Chaffetz on Thursday that due to the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel, it needed time to respond to the Utah congressman's initial request.
"In light of this development and other considerations, we are undertaking appropriate consultation to ensure all relevant interest implicated by your request are properly evaluated," the FBI's assistant director for congressional affairs wrote.
Chaffetz's request for any documents concerning Comey's conversations with Trump came after The New York Times first reported Comey wrote a memo saying Trump had asked him to back off an investigation into fired national security adviser Michael Flynn.
In a letter back to the FBI on Thursday, Chaffetz said his committee does not want to "impede or interfere" with Mueller's investigation but that the committee is charged with oversight of the executive branch.
"The committee has its own, constitutionally-based prerogative to conduct investigations," Chaffetz wrote.
"In this case, the focus of the committee's investigation is the independence of the FBI, including conversations between the president and Comey and the process by which Comey was removed from his role as director," Chaffetz added. "The records being withheld are central to those questions, even more so in light of Comey's decision not to testify before the committee at this time."
Chaffetz had scheduled a hearing for Comey to testify this week but postponed it so the former FBI director could speak to the special counsel first. Chaffetz noted that while Mueller's focus is conducting a "criminal or counterintelligence investigation" behind closed doors, the Oversight Committee will "shed light on matters of high public interest," regardless of whether criminal conduct occurred.
Trump fired Comey on May 9, with the White House initially saying that the FBI rank and file had lost confidence in the director's leadership and citing a memo from the deputy attorney general about Comey's work.
Trump later said in an interview with NBC News that he was going to fire Comey anyway and that the ongoing probe into Russia's meddling in the U.S. election and possibly ties to Trump's associates was on his mind when he did so.
Chaffetz's office said the new request goes back to when Comey was first appointed as FBI director.