Updated Jan 30, 2023 - Politics & Policy

House Oversight chair will push classified documents reform

Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images.

House Oversight Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) said Monday that he wants to work with the top Democrat on the committee to reform how classified documents are handled.

Why it matters: Comer's latest remarks add to the series of bipartisan concerns over the classification of documents and the increasing wish for reform after documents were found at the personal residences and offices of a handful former presidents and vice presidents.

Driving the news: "We have to reform the way that documents are boxed up when they leave the president and vice president's office," Comer said Monday at an event at the National Press Club.

  • Comer, who chairs the committee with oversight authority over the National Archives, said he wants to work with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) to find a legislative fix on the role of the archives.
  • "Somebody needs to oversee all the documents that are going into boxes to make sure they're not classified and if there's a problem, then they need to iron it out before that document is put into that box and loaded on the truck," he said.
  • "There's no hurry on this right now, this just needs to happen prior to this administration going out of office and the next administration coming in."

Zoom out: Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday on CBS News' "Face the Nation" that he, too, thinks there is bipartisan support for reform.

  • "We've got a problem in terms of both classification levels, how senior elected officials when they leave government, how they handle documents, we've had too many examples of this," Warner told CBS.

The big picture: The Department of Justice on Monday sent a letter to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, regarding a request for documents related to President Biden's classified document probe.

  • "Your letter also requests non-public information that is central to the ongoing Special Counsel investigation," Assistant Attorney General Carlos Felipe Uriarte wrote in the letter obtained by Politico.
  • "The Department’s longstanding policy is to maintain the confidentiality of such information regarding open matters."
  • The Department of Justice previously signaled that it was unable to share information about ongoing investigations with the House committee.

Between the lines: DOJ has long refused to provide Congress with any material about open investigations, including deliberation communication.

  • In a 2000 letter to House Rules Chair John Linder (R-Ga.), the department notes that that position was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1974.

What's next: The House Oversight Committee will conduct a transcribed interview with National Archives General Counsel Gary Stern on Tuesday.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with details on the Department of Justice letter.

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