Today we launch the Russia Investigation Congressional Clearinghouse – a resource tool that seeks to provide, in one place, all congressional investigations’ materials related to Russia’s efforts to interfere in U.S. elections. We trust it will be a great resource for journalists, academics, and the broader Just Security readership.
Bookmark the clearinghouse page to find publicly released document request letters, committee reports, deposition and interview transcripts, hearing transcripts, legislative proposals, subpoenas, criminal referrals, and major press releases related to the various Russian investigations. The database is organized by congressional session, and then by committee, with an internally hyperlinked table of contents to take you to the right section of materials.
This project grew out of my longstanding frustration as an academic with research on congressional oversight materials.
First, many academic treatments of congressional oversight focus on only the formal proceedings – court cases related to oversight disputes or formal congressional hearings. While those are certainly essential oversight data points, the vast majority of congressional disputes, and the efforts to resolve them, happen in more informal interactions more likely to be reflected in correspondence. Those letters reflect the development of the legal arguments. Those transcripts and reports present the evidence obtained. And informal materials showcase the leverage brought to bear during the negotiation and accommodation process in which Congress attempts to obtain access to witnesses and information. Examining the full range of congressional materials is essential to understanding the dynamics of congressional investigations.
Second, and likely related, the informal materials have been notoriously difficult to collect. Documents need to be collected separately from each committee that presents a piece of the puzzle. Each committee has its own culture of transparency, or a lack thereof. Committee website document links often break or disappear upon a change in leadership or passage of time. We have undertaken the effort to acquire and preserve these materials by hosting them on the Just Security website so they can be easily accessed and will not disappear with the ebb and flow of congressional transience.
There is more to be done. For a few years, Elise Bean at the Levin Center on Legislative Oversight at Wayne Law and I have talked about the need for a research center to build a comprehensive academic, coded database of congressional oversight materials. Brookings has established a helpful congressional oversight tracker of House oversight of the executive branch during the Trump administration since Democrats assumed control in the 116th Congress. But we need a much larger effort that transcends Trump-era disputes, and reaches back into our history. I hope the foundation community will fund those enterprising researchers who propose such a project.
In the meantime, we hope this clearinghouse project provides value to the community and transparency to an oversight process that can, at times, be needlessly opaque. We would ask that you help us keep it up to date by directing our attention to items you believe should be added.
I am extremely grateful to our team at Just Security – especially Alex Potcovaru, Edwin Djabatey, and Ariana Rowberry – for their tireless efforts to pull this ambitious project together.