House Intel Republicans appear close to ending Russia probe

House Intel Republicans appear close to ending Russia probe
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Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee appear close to closing the committee's yearlong investigation into Russian interference.

Republicans say the panel has thoroughly examined Moscow’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 election and they are ready to conclude the probe. But alarmed Democratic colleagues say ending the investigation anytime soon would be premature.

“I think we are pretty much near the end of it,” Rep. Pete KingPeter (Pete) Thomas KingHouse passes bills to fund Transportation Dept., HUD, Agriculture GOP emphasizes unity ahead of new shutdown votes Dems look to chip away at Trump tax reform law MORE (R-N.Y.) told The Hill on Monday.

“I don’t know exactly when it is going to end, but we’ve definitely interviewed just about every possible witness, every plausible witness,” he added.

Democrats, on the other hand, are renewing their warning calls about a concerted effort by the GOP to cut the investigation's lifespan short in an effort to shield President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump claims media 'smeared' students involved in encounter with Native American man Al Sharpton criticizes Trump’s ‘secret’ visit to MLK monument Gillibrand cites spirituality in 2020 fight against Trump’s ‘dark’ values MORE from the congressional probes, which are separate from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation. 

“We're being shut off,” Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyDem: 'Disheartening' that Republicans who 'stepped up' to defend Mueller are leaving Dem rep on Trump 'Adam Schitt' tweet: 'I feel like I'm back in seventh grade' Dems vow swift action on gun reform next year MORE (D-Ill.) said during a Monday appearance on “CNN Newsroom.” 

“If I had to predict, in the next month they will shut down the House and Senate investigations and I would imagine they would cheer on the White House attempt to shut down Mueller,” he added.

Quigley also accused the Republican majority on the committee of being complicit in following the marching orders of the Trump administration by failing to compel witnesses to answer questions in the face of a “gag order" from the White House.

Democrats loudly protested last week that Republicans are failing to follow up on threats to hold former White House strategist Stephen Bannon in contempt of Congress. Republicans on the committee appeared relatively quiet on the matter, a contrast to their initial fury at Bannon, who refused to answer some committee questions while under subpoena during an interview in February.

The clashing viewpoints on the probe are the latest sign of deteriorating bipartisan relations between the committee’s Democrats and Republicans, who have engaged in a bruising battle over the direction of the investigation. 

Tensions reached a boiling point last month when Democrats called on House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump once asked Paul Ryan why he couldn’t be ‘loyal': book AEI names Robert Doar as new president GOP can't excommunicate King and ignore Trump playing to white supremacy and racism MORE (R-Wis.) to remove Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesBlack Caucus sees power grow with new Democratic majority Nunes's 2018 Dem challenger launches voting rights group Democrats: Concentrate on defeating, not impeaching MORE (R-Calif.) over his controversial decision to release a classified memo authored by his staff that outlined allegations of surveillance abuse.  

While they eventually released their own point-by-point rebuttal last week, after Republicans initially voted to not release the Democratic memo, Democrats accused Nunes of using his memo to undermine Mueller by suggesting that federal probe was tainted from the start as it was based off information that was funded by Trump’s opponents.

Republicans have also been accused of leaking to the press.

The New York Times reported last week that the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee suspect Nunes is behind the leaked text messages to Fox News that aimed to discredit the top Democrat on the panel, Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerGeorge Conway on Giuliani walking back Trump Tower Moscow comments: ‘Translation: I made s--- up’ Giuliani says his comments on Trump Tower talks were 'hypothetical' Giuliani: Trump Tower Moscow talks went 'as far as October, November' 2016 MORE (D-Va.). Warner communicated with lobbyist Adam Waldman, whose firm has reported ties to a Russian oligarch, in an attempt to make contact with Christopher Steele, the author of the controversial Trump dossier.

The leaders of the Senate committee, which has led is own independent investigation into Russian interference, are largely seen as the perfect opposite of the House panel: well-functioning, tight-lipped and bipartisan.

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrHillicon Valley: Senate panel subpoenas Roger Stone associate | Streaming giants hit with privacy complaints in Europe | FTC reportedly discussing record fine for Facebook | PayPal offering cash advances to unpaid federal workers Senate panel subpoenas Roger Stone associate Jerome Corsi Manafort developments trigger new ‘collusion’ debate MORE (R-N.C.) and other Republicans came to the defense of Warner at the time, who said he had informed them of the text messages. But Burr disputed the idea that he complained to Ryan that Nunes was behind the leak. 

Partisan infighting has splintered committee relations to such a degree that the purpose of the Russia investigation is being undermined, a senior Republican leading the Russia probe said Friday.

“I went on television and called for an end to House Russia investigation, not because I don’t think that there is still more information that we can gather from witnesses, but because the investigation has just completely gone off the rails politically,” Rep. Tom RooneyThomas (Tom) Joseph RooneyThe Year Ahead: Tech braces for new scrutiny from Washington GOP struggles to win votes for Trump’s B wall demand The Year Ahead: Pressure mounts on election security as 2020 approaches MORE (R-Fla.) said during an interview with The New York Times’s “The Daily” podcast.

Rooney, who announced he will not seek reelection last month, has repeatedly described the partisan atmosphere as toxic.

“The well has been poisoned so bad down there that it will be very, very difficult to get out of that,” he said in the interview.

The Florida lawmaker made the case that it is pointless to continue the probe if the committee cannot put aside their differences and write a bipartisan report detailing their investigation’s findings on Moscow’s meddling, but he said it has already become clear that is not going to happen. 

“We’ve already been told there’s not going to be a bipartisan report — there’s going to be a majority report and a minority report. But it is not going to be bipartisan. And if it is not going to be bipartisan, it might as well just end,” Rooney said in the podcast interview.

Republicans are still fuming over what they viewed as Democrats’ unfair treatment of White House communications director Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksHouse Dems planning to send Trump associates’ testimony to Mueller: report Trump played key role in coordinating hush money payments to Daniels, McDougal: report Trump: 'I don't call it tweeting. I call it social media' MORE during her appearance before the committee last week, which they point to as an example of how partisanship has impeded their investigative efforts.

Democrats, King said, asked a “cheap question” about whether the White House communications director had ever lied for her boss. King alleged that Democrats then quickly turned around and leaked to the press Hicks's admission that she had told "white lies" on Trump's behalf.

“To me that is sort of what we are up against,” King said. 

Despite the talk of ending the probe, the committee could continue to interview other witnesses. 

Former Trump campaign manager Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiThe Hill's Morning Report — Groundhog Day: Negotiations implode as shutdown reaches 20 days Chris Christie declines White House chief of staff role The Hill's Morning Report — Trump maintains his innocence amid mounting controversies MORE is expected to appear before the committee for a second interview on Thursday, a committee source familiar with the matter confirmed.

Bloomberg News first reported his expected appearance.

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDebate builds over making Mueller report public Media reliability questioned over report Trump directed lies to Congress Giuliani defends Trump going after Cohen's father-in-law MORE (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the committee, publicly sounded the alarm in December that Republicans planned to wrap up the high-profile probe before the start of the new year. The committee, however, continued to interview witnesses months after Schiff made such claims. 

When the investigation does ultimately wrap up, it will likely end with pointed fingers.

A spokesperson for Rep. Mike ConawayKenneth (Mike) Michael ConawayConservative leader Meadows condemns King comments 'in strongest sense' GOP takes victory lap around Pelosi after passing border wall bill House Intel votes to release Roger Stone transcript to Mueller MORE (R-Texas), the top Republican leading the investigation, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the timeline.