Intel panel rebuffs request to share info for GOP’s Obama-era probes
Bipartisan leaders on the Senate Intelligence Committee have rejected a request to share the panel’s transcripts with GOP senators leading probes into the Obama administration.
Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told The Hill they don’t expect to get access to the panel’s transcripts related to the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“There’s a certain institutional attitude on the part of Intelligence Committee members for probably several decades … that somehow the Judiciary Committee doesn’t have any jurisdiction over national security matters and intelligence matters, and we do,” Grassley, a member of the Judiciary panel who also serves as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said when asked why the transcripts were not being shared.
Johnson, who leads the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, added “it kind of sounds that way doesn’t it” when asked about not getting access to the transcripts from the Intelligence panel.
The two GOP senators sent a letter last month to Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), who lead the Intelligence Committee, asking for access to the transcripts.
They wanted to review the documents as part of their investigation into the Obama administration that includes digging into the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation that President Trump accused of being a “witch hunt.”
The FBI probe started in 2016 and eventually became wrapped into former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which spanned the first more than two years of Trump’s presidency.
“While seeking the voluntary cooperation of several prospective witnesses, several have requested—and provided permission for—us to review transcripts of their testimony before your committee because of the overlapping subject matter,” Johnson and Grassley wrote in the letter last month.
They added that being able to review the Intelligence Committee’s transcripts would allow them to avoid duplicating work already done by that panel, which Johnson and Grassley are not members of.
The Intelligence Committee led a years-long investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election that wrapped up last month when the panel released its final report.
Johnson and Grassley are deep into an investigation that includes reviewing the FBI’s probe, allegations of “unmasking” and leaks from the early days of the Trump administration.
They are also running a separate investigation that involves the Obama-era State Department’s Ukraine policy and Hunter Biden, the son of 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Democrats have fumed for months over concerns that the probes are politically motivated and could spread Russian disinformation.
An Intelligence Committee aide confirmed that Rubio and Warner had sent a letter responding to the request for access to transcripts and rejected the request.
Rubio, asked about the request, noted the decision wasn’t just up to him but also Warner, the panel’s vice chairman, and that Johnson and Grassley could try to collect the same information themselves.
“Much of it’s already reflected in our reports and … any committee has the power to go out and get that information for themselves,” Rubio said.
Rubio added that Johnson and Grassley thought a rule gave them access, but “that’s not our interpretation of the rule.”
“If we decide to turn it over it would be because we both agree to do so and because there’s no other way to get that information,” he said.