House Intel panel votes to release Russia interview transcripts to Mueller

The House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday voted give special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE transcripts from dozens of witness interviews from the panel’s Russia probe.

The move will provide Mueller with roughly 50 transcripts of committee interviews as he continues to investigate Russian interference and potential coordination between President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Camerota clashes with Trump's immigration head over president's tweet LA Times editorial board labels Trump 'Bigot-in-Chief' Trump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates MORE’s campaign and Moscow.

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“That includes transcripts that the special counsel and Justice Department have not had access to and a great many that they have, but have not been allowed to use for particular purposes including in prosecutions for false statements, obstruction, or perjury or any other like offense,” Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump knocks Mueller after deal struck for him to testify Mueller to give extended testimony after appearance postponed Mueller testimony likely to be delayed for one week MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters on Wednesday.

The special counsel's office, the Department of Justice and its elements will now have access to those transcripts for any purpose, which will facilitate justice,” he added.

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) told reporters that lawmakers approved of the release in a bipartisan voice vote in a closed-door meeting.

Mueller will now have access to nonpublic transcripts of closed-door interviews with Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son; former White House communications director Hope Hicks; senior White House adviser and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; the president’s former attorney, Michael Cohen; former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski; and others.

The documents will allow Mueller’s team to compare what witnesses said about key events like the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump Jr., Kushner, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

The transcripts also catalogue interviews with several Obama administration officials, including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, as well as current and former Trump administration officials like Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

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Schiff took over as the committee’s chairman in January after Democrats secured a sweeping victory in the November midterm elections, winning back control of the lower chamber. 

The panel’s Russia probe from the previous Congress devolved into partisan infighting, and Republicans moved to abruptly end it last year. Schiff is now reviving the investigation.

He signaled Wednesday that the inquiry would expand beyond Russian interference to include any “credible allegations” of Trump and his family having financial interests that may be influencing his decisionmaking, as well as allegations of leverage by any foreign entities.

The new iteration of the probe, he said, will be done in concert with other House committees that share a similar interest and concern in their investigative matters.

Schiff also jabbed at Trump in remarks to reporters following Wednesday’s meeting, accusing the president of attempting to discourage lawmakers with his reference to “ridiculous partisan investigations” during Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

“His efforts to discourage any meaningful oversight, that is a non-starter,” Schiff said. “We are not going to be intimidated or threatened by the president to withhold any legislative advancement."

Trump later blasted Schiff as a "political hack" and said there is no basis for the new probe.

Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesDemocrats' opposition research got exposed — this time, not by the Russians GOP consultant sued by Nunes asks for help paying legal costs Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data MORE (R-Calif.), the previous committee chairman who is now the ranking member, issued a statement shortly before Wednesday’s meeting, saying the panel had already voted to release the transcripts in the spirit of transparency.

Nunes was referring to the GOP-led committee’s September vote to release the transcripts publicly with any necessary redactions, a move that came under mounting pressure from Democrats. The documents have not been released because they are being reviewed by the intelligence community to remove any sensitive material.

Nunes said Republicans on the committee had already moved to “make all the transcripts available to the executive branch, including the Special Counsel’s office, as part of the process of publishing them for the American people to see.”

He also labeled the delay in the declassification review as “unacceptable” and urged committee Democrats to vote to “immediately publish all the unclassified transcripts that we previously sent to the executive branch.”

Democrats rejected a motion by Republicans to release those transcripts publicly, according to Conaway. They also rejected a motion by Republicans to subpoena “numerous witnesses” whose testimony they previously sought in connection with the probe. 

It is unclear who those witnesses are.

“The motion will be in the public record that will be available,” Conaway said.

Schiff said Democrats opted against that motion because they want to give witnesses time to testify voluntarily before compelling them to appear for an interview.

When asked how he voted on the motion to release the transcripts to Mueller, Nunes declined to answer and told reporters, “You still don’t get it. You’re still an embarrassment to yourself.”

The committee voted in December to release the testimony of Trump’s longtime informal adviser Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneCounterprotesters outnumber far-right extremists at DC rally Judge orders Roger Stone to file rebuttal to allegation he violated gag order Federal prosecutors allege Roger Stone violated gag order with Instagram posts MORE after Mueller made a formal request for the record. Stone was subsequently charged with lying to Congress about his interactions regarding WikiLeaks, the organization that leaked hacked Democratic emails that the U.S. intelligence community later concluded were obtained by Russian intelligence officers as part of a broader plot to meddle in the 2016 election.

Stone, who has pleaded not guilty, is also charged with obstructing a congressional investigation and witness tampering.

House Intelligence Committee Democrats have suggested other witnesses may have lied to the panel, but they have not named those individuals. 

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrHillicon Valley: Senate bill would force companies to disclose value of user data | Waters to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency | GOP divided on election security bills | US tracking Russian, Iranian social media campaigns GOP senators divided over approach to election security GOP frets about Trump's poll numbers MORE (R-N.C.), who is leading a parallel probe in the upper chamber, has also said his panel has made “quite a few referrals” of cases of suspected lying to Mueller.

Updated at 2:34 p.m.