WASHINGTON — The House Intelligence Committee chairman said Wednesday that the Justice Department had agreed to begin honoring a subpoena for intelligence materials related to the special counsel’s investigation — a hint of easing tensions between the Trump administration and Congress.
The department could begin handing over counterintelligence and foreign intelligence related documents as soon as this week, the chairman, Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, said Wednesday morning. The action prompted him to cancel a committee meeting scheduled for later in the day at which Democrats had planned to vote on an unspecified “enforcement action” to increase pressure on the department.
Mr. Schiff’s subpoena is broad, encompassing Robert S. Mueller III’s full report, its underlying evidence and the intelligence-related materials his investigation produced. But in an effort to find an initial compromise, Mr. Schiff said he would accept documents in 12 narrower categories, though he has not specified publicly what they are.
Speaking with reporters a short time later, he said the initial compliance “does not obviate the need for the subpoena.” He added: “We will keep that in force until we get all the documents we are seeking.”
The department spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, said the agency looked forward to “appropriately accommodating” the committee’s requests.
The détente — however long it lasts — stands in sharp contrast to relations between the Justice Department and the House Judiciary Committee, where tensions over a similar subpoena for Mr. Mueller’s full report and evidence quickly escalated. Unable to reach an accommodation, the Judiciary Committee moved this month to hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress and President Trump invoked executive privilege, walling off the materials they wanted for an investigation into obstruction of justice and abuse of power.
The Intelligence Committee appears to be getting material that was not subject to the privilege claim. As one of two congressional bodies charged with overseeing American intelligence agencies, it has strong legal claims on such counterintelligence and intelligence information, and in this case, the Democrats requesting the material had the support of Republicans on the committee.
It is unclear if the department will reconsider Mr. Trump’s privilege claim going forward. Democrats plan to challenge it in court.
“This is no substitute in any way, shape or form for the appearance of Bob Mueller before our committee and the Judiciary Committee,” Mr. Schiff told reporters. “It’s no substitute for the appearance of Don McGahn and the other witnesses that have been subpoenaed to come before the committee. But we are pleased we are finally going to start to receive documents we are entitled to from the Department of Justice.”
Still, the de-escalation comes as liberal Democratic lawmakers are increasingly restless over the administration’s stonewalling of congressional requests and subpoenas, and a growing number have begun calling for the opening of an impeachment inquiry. The cooperation will likely strengthen the hand of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her allies, who have argued instead that Democrats should stay the course of their current no-impeachment strategy.
The Justice Department wrote in a letter to Mr. Schiff on Tuesday that it was already in the process of locating and reviewing materials related to the 12 categories and could make them available in “relatively short order.”
But the department has stated that it would comply in this way only if the committee did not proceed with the previously scheduled vote on its enforcement action.
“The proposal set forth above represents a good-faith effort and extraordinary accommodation of the committee’s request for information by proposing a realistic process to provide the committee with information pertaining to counterintelligence and foreign-intelligence activities related to the special counsel’s investigation,” Stephen E. Boyd, an assistant attorney general, wrote in the Tuesday letter.
The department said it was also willing to allow all members of the Intelligence Committee to view a limited redacted version of the first volume of Mr. Mueller’s report. It had previously allowed only a handful of lawmakers in both the House and Senate to see those materials.