Top Intel Dem: GOP wouldn’t let us question Russian operative because it might ‘tarnish’ NRA

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffThe Hill's Morning Report - Is impeachment back on the table? Trump takes aim at Dem talk of impeachment Dems digging into Trump finances post-Mueller MORE (D-Calif.) on Thursday claimed that Republicans would not let the House Intelligence Committee interview a woman who has been charged as a Russian agent out of fear that it would "tarnish" the National Rifle Association (NRA). 

“We heard credible allegations that the Russians may have been funneling money through the NRA, so yes, we wanted to pursue this, but like many other things, when it got too hot, the Republican reaction was, we don’t want to know, we’d rather not know,” Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN's "New Day."

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Schiff said committee members earlier this year wanted to bring in for testimony Maria Butina, who was indicted earlier this week for conspiring to work for the Russian government by establishing relationships and infiltrating organizations such as the NRA that have influence in U.S. politics. 

“The Republicans were unwilling," Schiff said. "They said, 'No, we don’t want to have them come in, we don’t want to hear what they have to say.' They wouldn’t explain why, but it was very clear that anything that might tarnish the NRA, anything that might lead to discoverable evidence that might incriminate the White House or people around the president, they didn’t want to hear.”

Schiff also charged that "even today, as we continue to bring in witnesses, the majority continues to call the witnesses who are coming before our committee and telling them: ‘Do not come in, don’t tell the Democrats anything.'”

Schiff has often claimed that Republicans were blocking the minority on the committee from adequately pursuing the investigation into Russia interference in the election. The Republicans who control the committee ended its probe earlier this year, despite protests from Democrats that they hadn't heard from all the relevant witnesses.

Schiff's comment comes just days after the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced charges against Butina. Among them, the DOJ alleges that Butina was being directed by a "high-level" Russian official as she forged relationships with the NRA and conservative politicians from 2015 to 2017. 

Butina allegedly said she targeted the NRA because they have a "central place and influence" in U.S. politics, according to ABC News.  

Those allegations are similar to what Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee claimed they had obtained earlier this year. The Democrats said they had discovered documents that suggest Russia used the NRA “to secretly fund Mr. Trump’s campaign.” Butina was named in the panel's preliminary findings but was not cooperating as a witness.