CNN reported on Thursday that the Justice Department is looking into Planned Parenthood's practices related to human fetal tissue. They gained the information from a letter.
The letter, which is from the Justice Department's head of its Office of Legislative Affairs, does not mention Planned Parenthood by name. Instead, it asks the Senate Judiciary Committee to turn over unredacted documentation supporting a December 2016 report titled "Human Fetal Tissue Research."
That document is supposed to describe Planned Parenthood's practices.
"At this point, the records are intended for investigative use only," Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote. "We understand that a resolution from the Senate may be required if the Department were to use any of the unredacted materials in a formal legal proceeding, such as a grand jury."
Federal law prohibits the receipt of any "valuable consideration" for fetal tissue. However, it does permit "reasonable payments" for costs, including "transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control or storage of human fetal tissue."
Fox News is told that Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, and Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, said they needed to receive a letter and be assured that the documents would be used for investigative purposes.
Grassley appears to be a proponent of the investigation. In his 2016 report, he claimed that executive branch agencies had failed to monitor the industry. At that time, after evaluating 20,000 documents, he called for an investigation.
"The report documents the failure of the Department of Justice, across multiple administrations, to enforce the law that bans the buying and selling of human fetal tissue," Grassley wrote. "It also documents substantial evidence suggesting that the specific entities involved in the recent controversy, and/or individuals employed by those entities, may have violated that law."
Last month, reports were released that the FBI had asked the Senate for documents it obtained from abortion providers. Planned Parenthood's vice president of government affairs, Dana Singiser, said:
"Planned Parenthood strongly disagrees with the recommendations of the Senate Republican staff to refer this matter to the Justice Department, especially in light of the fact that investigations by three other Congressional committees, and investigations in 13 states including a Grand Jury in Texas, have all shown that Planned Parenthood did nothing wrong."
The now-federal investigation comes after a 2015 undercover investigation by activists David Daleiden. Daleiden, the leader of the pro-life Center for Medical Progress, and Sandra Merritt, an employee of the group, posed as fetal researchers.
Daleiden and Merritt made undercover videos while they deposed. The videos showed them trying to buy fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood.
“Over two years ago, citizen journalists at The Center for Medical Progress first caught Planned Parenthood’s top abortion doctors in a series of undercover videos callously and flippantly negotiating the sale of tiny baby hearts, lungs, livers, and brains,” Daleiden said Thursday. “It is time for public officials to finally hold Planned Parenthood and their criminal abortion enterprise accountable under the law.”
CNN is told that Grassley said, in order to turn over the documentation, he needed to receive a letter from DOJ explaining that the materials underlying his report would be used for investigative purposes, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions.
The Justice Department declined to comment.