House Republicans are open to investigating former national security advisor Michael Flynn as part of a larger probe into Russian influence on November's elections, according to the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
House GOP leaders had initially balked at the idea of expanding their Russia investigation to include Flynn, with Intel Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) telling CNN that Flynn was protected by "executive privilege." Nunes said the probe should focus not on Flynn's conversation with a Russian diplomat prior to the inauguration, but on the leak that exposed the discussion.
But Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHouse passes bill to compensate 'Havana syndrome' victims House Democrats unveil legislation to curtail presidential power Overnight Hillicon Valley — Hacking goes global MORE (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the Intel panel, said he spoke with Nunes Wednesday afternoon, and that's no longer the chairman's position.
"He assured me that we would investigate everything that the Senate is looking at, including the Flynn allegations," Schiff said, "and that he will not preclude any area that Democratic members thought was a subject of legitimate investigation.
"So I was pleased with the discussion."
Nunes's office said Wednesday night that "it is possible" the investigation would expand to include the Flynn episode.
“[W]e’re not excluding the possibility of investigating anything related to Russian intelligence and counter-intelligence activities,” a spokesman said in an email.
Schiff's comments suggest that House GOP leaders — after five days when the Flynn story has monopolized the news cycle, agonized the White House and put intense pressure on congressional Republicans — are ceding some ground in their defense of President Trump's former national security czar.
Flynn was pushed out on Monday, just 24 days into his tenure, following revelations that he'd misled Vice President Pence and other top administration officials about the nature of a discussion he'd had with the Russian ambassador to the United States. Flynn told Pence the topic of U.S. sanctions on Russia had not been broached, a claim he walked back after The Washington Post reported Friday that the Justice Department had intercepted information proving it false.
Both the Senate and House Intel committees had previously launched investigations into Russian hacking of Democratic campaign offices during the election, and Senate GOP leaders earlier in the week had indicated they were open to expanding that probe to include Flynn.
Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntMissouri official asks court to suspend McCloskeys' law licenses GOP hopes spending traps derail Biden agenda A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate MORE (R-Mo.) said Tuesday that it's "likely" Flynn will be called to appear before the Senate panel.
Schiff said the House may now follow suit.
"I'm encouraged that we'll have the ability to investigate everything we need to," he said.
Schiff said the process may take some time.
"There really isn't a timeline, but this won't be something we can get done overnight," he said. "Frankly, investigations of far less scope have taken years here.
"I think there was a sense of urgency about this investigation," he added. "But we have a lot of work to do."
- This story was updated at 7:18 p.m.