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Top Dem blasts Oversight chairman for declining to interview Flynn whistleblower

Top Dem blasts Oversight chairman for declining to interview Flynn whistleblower
© Camille Fine

Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsElection Countdown: Small-donor donations explode | Russian woman charged with midterm interference | Takeaways from North Dakota Senate debate | O'Rourke gives 'definitive no' to 2020 run | Dems hope Latino voters turn Arizona blue On The Money: Mnuchin to attend anti-terror meeting in Saudi Arabia | Treasury releases guidance on 'opportunity zone' program | Maxine Waters gets company in new GOP line of attack Maxine Waters gets company in new GOP line of attack MORE (Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, blasted the panel's chairman for refusing to meet with a whistleblower who claims to have information about Michael Flynn's efforts to do away with Russian sanctions.

The unidentified whistleblower claimed Flynn, President TrumpDonald John TrumpCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Five takeaways from testy Heller-Rosen debate in Nevada Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation MORE’s former national security adviser, told a former business associate on Inauguration Day that sanctions against Russia would be “ripped up” early into Trump’s presidency.

Cummings said the whistleblower, whom he found “authentic, credible and reliable," was willing to meet with the committee's chairman to discuss evidence of his claims. The chairman, Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyRosenstein to appear for House interview next week House GOP sets deposition deadline for Fusion GPS co-founder Collusion bombshell: DNC lawyers met with FBI on Russia allegations before surveillance warrant MORE (R-S.C.), refused the offer.

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“It is astonishing to me that you, as the sitting Chairman of the Oversight Committee, are declining to meet with a whistleblower who has agreed to come forward—despite fear of retaliation—to speak directly with you about evidence relating to former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and his plan to lift sanctions in order to work with Russia to build nuclear reactors in the Middle East,” Cummings said in a statement directed at Gowdy on Wednesday.

Cummings publicly urged the Oversight chief to investigate the matter earlier in the day, asking him to subpoena Flynn and his business associates in a letter first reported by The New York Times. Cummings detailed the whistleblower's claims in the letter.

Gowdy, who also sits on the House Intelligence Committee, pushed back on Cummings's request. The South Carolina lawmaker said this matter belongs as part of the ongoing Russia probe led by the House Intelligence Committee, not Oversight. 

“I think [the House Intelligence Committee] is the right committee to do it. My committee is looking into the things that are in the jurisdiction of the oversight committee,” he told a scrum of reporters on Wednesday night, noting that his committee is not investigating Russian interference in the election.

Cummings took aim at his reasoning for not meeting with the anonymous whistleblower.  

“Your letter seems to resort to desperate and baseless jurisdictional excuses to avoid conducting oversight in an apparent attempt to protect President Trump and his administration. I ask that you please reconsider your position,” he wrote.

Last week, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the nature of his communications with Russia's ambassador to the U.S.

Flynn, who had a short-lived service in the White House, has been a key person of interest in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe, as well as the multiple congressional probes looking into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.