Comey, NSA chief brief House panel amid Russia probe

Comey, NSA chief brief House panel amid Russia probe
© Greg Nash

House Intelligence Committee members emerged tight-lipped from a closed-door briefing with FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency head Adm. Michael Rogers on Thursday.

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), who is leading the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the election, appeared briefly alongside the committee's ranking member, Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffFISA shocker: DOJ official warned Steele dossier was connected to Clinton, might be biased Intel Dems hire corruption expert, ex-prosecutor as they ramp up Russia probe: report The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s attorney general pick passes first test MORE (D-Calif.) at the close of the meeting to characterize the meeting as valuable — but said little else.

Conaway took over the probe early last month following the recusal of committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), whose relationship with Schiff had deteriorated to the level of the pair holding dueling press conferences regarding Nunes’s handling of the investigation.

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In a joint statement issued after the hearing Thursday, Conaway and Schiff indicated that an open hearing with several high-ranking Obama officials — including former acting Attorney General Sally Yates — is still in the cards.

“We are currently sending out invitations for witnesses to testify and requests for pertinent documents, and look forward to the next steps of this investigation, including witness interviews and an open hearing with Sally Yates, [former Director of National Intelligence] James Clapper, and [former CIA Director] John Brennan,” the statement read.

Much of the acrimony on the committee had centered on an appearance by Yates, which had been scheduled for March but was canceled at the last minute by Nunes when he helmed the Russia investigation.

Republicans claimed that the committee needed to interview Comey and Rogers in a closed setting first, a move that Democrats argued was intended to shield the White House.

Reports have indicated that Yates was likely to offer testimony that would contradict that of Trump administration officials.

The week before Yates had been scheduled to testify, Comey confirmed the existence of the FBI’s investigation into ties between members of President Trump’s campaign and Russia in the panel’s first open hearing.

Yates is now set to testify before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Monday. The House committee has been in talks with the Senate committee to determine whether she will appear before both panels. 

Other lawmakers exiting Thursday’s two-and-a-half-hour briefing — which was interrupted briefly so lawmakers could vote on the GOP healthcare bill — were largely silent, deferring to the chair and ranking member.

In a public appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey on Wednesday said that he was "mildly nauseous" at the idea that his handling of the probe into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTexas man indicted over allegations he created fraudulent campaign PACs FISA shocker: DOJ official warned Steele dossier was connected to Clinton, might be biased Pompeo’s Cairo speech more ‘back to the future’ than break with past MORE's private email server may have impacted the outcome of the 2016 election, but maintained that he would make the same choices again given the chance.