House

Republicans call for inquiry into House Intel panel's Russia investigation leaks

Republicans are calling on lawmakers to open an inquiry into the House Intelligence Committee after members of the press received "privileged information" that was leaked from a closed-door interview earlier this month with the president's oldest son.

Reps. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) and Mia Love (R-Utah) sent a letter on Monday to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urging them to investigate the leaks. Their request comes one week after Donald Trump Jr. asked the House Intelligence panel to investigate how information from his meeting on Dec. 6 made it into the hands of the press.

In their letter, the Republican lawmakers urged House leaders to remove any member of the Intelligence panel found to have violated committee rules, while also advocating for "appropriate disciplinary action" for staff members found leaking such information.

"Significant evidence that serious leaks have occurred in relation to the [House Intelligence Committee] investigation into alleged Russian meddling of the 2016 election must be immediately addressed," the trio said in a statement.

"Members or staff who may have violated rules by leaking sensitive information to the press or other outside entities must be promptly removed from this investigation and proper inquiries undertaken without delay," they urged, while underscoring the importance of the committee's "integrity" being preserved.

Other Republicans echoed the GOP lawmakers' calls for a formal inquiry.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel on Monday also called on Congress to investigate the leaks.

Trump Jr.'s lawyer Alan Futerfas sent a letter last week to Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), who has been leading the panel's ongoing investigation into Russian interference.

The attorney accused members of the committee of "selectively leaking information provided during the interview to various press outlets, most notably CNN," citing tweets from CNN reporter Manu Raju and a story that came out during the meeting as evidence of leaking, New York Magazine reported.

Futerfas said Trump Jr. had received assurances that the interview "would be kept strictly confidential and not discussed publicly unless and until the full committee voted to release the transcript," according to the report.

The attorney pointed to the public remarks of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the panel, and two other Democratic lawmakers as evidence that they breached this agreement.

Schiff had told a scrum of reporters after the eight-hour meeting concluded that Trump Jr. declined to tell the committee details about his conversation with President Trump regarding his 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower, citing client privilege. Schiff argued that Trump Jr. cannot apply attorney-client privilege and "shield" lawmakers from his conversation between father and son just because an attorney was present in the room at the time.

Futerfas also pointed to the TV appearances of Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), arguing that their public remarks were "an attempt to discredit" Trump Jr.

A spokesman for Schiff, Patrick Boland, told The New York Times in a statement last week that the top Democrat had a right to talk about  the "noncooperation" of a witness, while denying that Schiff or or his staff had leaked any such information.

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