The House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday voted give special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerAn unquestioning press promotes Rep. Adam Schiff's book based on Russia fiction Senate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG 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 TrumpGOP grapples with chaotic Senate primary in Pennsylvania Trump social media startup receives commitment of billion from unidentified 'diverse group' of investors Iran thinks it has the upper hand in Vienna — here's why it doesn't MORE’s campaign and Moscow.
“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 SchiffJan. 6 panel faces new test as first witness pleads the Fifth Jan. 6 panel releases contempt report on Trump DOJ official ahead of censure vote The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to update Americans on omicron; Congress back 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.
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 NunesProposed California maps put incumbents in jeopardy Devin Nunes's family ordered to reveal who is paying for defamation lawsuit Three key behind-the-scenes figures in Jan. 6 probe 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 StoneCheney warns of consequences for Trump in dealings with Jan. 6 committee Trump, Jan. 6 panel are set for Tuesday faceoff Countering the ongoing Republican delusion 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 BurrTexas Democrat Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson announces retirement at end of term On The Money — IRS chief calls for reinforcements Burr brother-in-law ordered to testify in insider trading probe 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.