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) KingTrump flexes pardon power with high-profile clemencies Lawmakers introduce bill taxing e-cigarettes to pay for anti-vaping campaigns Democrat who opposed Trump, Clinton impeachment inquiries faces big test MORE (R-N.Y.) told The Hill on Monday.

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“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 TrumpThe Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Congress eyes billion to billion to combat coronavirus Sanders makes the case against Biden ahead of SC primary MORE from the congressional probes, which are separate from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE's investigation. 

“We're being shut off,” Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyKhanna introduces bill to add a third gender option on US passports Hillicon Valley: Officials worry about Nevada caucus technology after Iowa | Pelosi joins pressure campaign on Huawei | Workers at Kickstarter vote to unionize | Bezos launches B climate initiative The Hill's Campaign Report: Bloomberg to face off with rivals at Nevada debate 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.

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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 RyanGaetz tells CPAC he won't take PAC money Paul Ryan says he disagrees with Romney's impeachment vote Trump doubles down on Neil Cavuto attacks: 'Will he get the same treatment as' Shep Smith? MORE (R-Wis.) to remove Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesEthics complaint filed against Nunes asks how he's paying for lawsuits The Hill's Morning Report - Can Sanders be stopped? Trump creates new headaches for GOP with top intelligence pick 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 WarnerSurveillance fight emerges as intelligence flashpoint Congress eyes killing controversial surveillance program This week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime 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 BurrSurveillance fight emerges as intelligence flashpoint Congress eyes killing controversial surveillance program John Ratcliffe back under consideration by Trump for top intel job 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 RooneyHouse Dem calls on lawmakers to 'insulate' election process following Mueller report Hill-HarrisX poll: 76 percent oppose Trump pardoning former campaign aides Dems fear Trump is looking at presidential pardons 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 HicksTrump aide asked Cabinet agencies to identify anti-Trump appointees: report Trump unleashed: President moves with a free hand post-impeachment The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in 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. LewandowskiRod Blagojevich joins app where people can pay for personalized video message The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders repeats with NH primary win, but with narrower victory Trump campaign chief relocating to Washington: report MORE is expected to appear before the committee for a second interview on Thursday, a committee source familiar with the matter confirmed.

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Bloomberg News first reported his expected appearance.

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHillicon Valley — Presented by Facebook — Federal court rules tech giants can censor content | Trump upends surveillance fight | Senate passes bill barring federal funds for Huawei equipment House Intelligence lawyer Goldman leaving committee Schiff presses top intel official to declassify part of report on Khashoggi killing 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 ConawayLive coverage: Democrats, Republicans seek to win PR battle in final House impeachment hearing Laughter erupts at hearing after Democrat fires back: Trump 'has 5 Pinocchios on a daily basis' Live coverage: Schiff closes with speech highlighting claims of Trump's corruption MORE (R-Texas), the top Republican leading the investigation, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the timeline.