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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) KingTop GOP lawmakers call for Swalwell to be removed from Intelligence Committee Republican Garbarino wins election to replace retiring Rep. Pete King Katko announces bid to serve as top Republican on Homeland Security panel 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 TrumpBiden to hold virtual bilateral meeting with Mexican president More than 300 charged in connection to Capitol riot Trump Jr.: There are 'plenty' of GOP incumbents who should be challenged MORE from the congressional probes, which are separate from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE's investigation. 

“We're being shut off,” Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyOn The Money: Biden signals he'll move forward on COVID-19 relief without GOP | Economy adds 49K jobs in January | Minimum wage push sparks Democratic divisions House bill introduced to give gyms B in relief Biden reverses Trump's freeze on .4 billion in funds 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 RyanCruz hires Trump campaign press aide as communications director Bottom line Ex-Trump chief of staff Priebus mulling Wisconsin governor bid MORE (R-Wis.) to remove Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesNunes lawsuit against CNN thrown out Sunday shows preview: New COVID-19 variants spread in US; Redditors shake Wall Street with Gamestop stock GOP group launches billboard campaign urging Cruz, Hawley to resign 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 WarnerDemocrats demand Saudi accountability over Khashoggi killing US intel: Saudi crown prince approved Khashoggi killing Schiff sees challenges for intel committee, community in Trump's shadow 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 BurrSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Overnight Health Care: COVID-19 vaccine makers pledge massive supply increase | Biden health nominee faces first Senate test | White House defends reopening of facility for migrant kids 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. 

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“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 HicksUPDATED: McEnany, Fox News talks on pause Trump selects Hicks, Bondi, Grenell and other allies for positions Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis tests positive for coronavirus 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 LewandowskiTrump likely to form new super PAC Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief ousts hundreds from advisory panels | Defense pick discusses Trump transition hurdles | Aircraft carrier returning home after 10-month deployment Defense secretary removes hundreds of advisory board members in sweeping review 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 SchiffOvernight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Democrats demand Saudi accountability over Khashoggi killing US intel: Saudi crown prince approved 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 ConawayEx-Rep. Mike Conaway, former aide launch lobbying firm Thompson named top Republican on Agriculture Bottom line MORE (R-Texas), the top Republican leading the investigation, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the timeline.