Top Intel Dem: Minority 'absolutely' plans to continue Russia witness interviews

Top Intel Dem: Minority 'absolutely' plans to continue Russia witness interviews
© Greg Nash

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says the minority plans to continue interviewing witnesses who can shed light on Russian activity in the 2016 presidential election, even though the majority is wrapping up the panel's formal investigation.

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump denies report that he still uses personal cell phone for calls Schiff asks Pence to declassify more material from official's testimony Schiff: Impeachment testimony shows Trump 'doesn't give a shit' about what's good for the country MORE (D-Calif.) said Wednesday he does not accept that the probe is finished, telling reporters he "absolutely" intends to press forward with interviews — although on a voluntary basis.

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Schiff confirmed they are working to nail down a time to interview a whistleblower from Cambridge Analytica, the Trump campaign's data firm during the 2016 presidential election. Christopher Wylie, a former employee, has come forward with what he views as concerning misuse of data by the firm — including claims the firm's large collection of data may have made its way into the possession of the Russians.

He has agreed to voluntarily meet with House Intel lawmakers. 

Schiff indicated Wylie will be just the start of a long list of people they hope to bring in for interviews, including other Cambridge Analytica officials like its suspended CEO Alexander Nix.

"We haven’t unilaterally approached everyone that we want to interview yet. We’re going to try to go to some that have already offered to come before us first and then do some strategizing about what makes the most sense, but work is going to go on," Schiff said.

"And frankly the invitation we extended to Christopher Wylie would have taken us weeks to get from the majority the way they were conducting the investigation previously," he added.

While Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesTrump denies report that he still uses personal cell phone for calls The Hill's Morning Report - Dem dilemma on articles of impeachment Conservative Dan Bongino launches alternative to the Drudge Report MORE (R-Calif.) has the sole authority to issue subpoenas to compel witnesses to appear before the committee, Democrats are seeking interviews with those who will offer testimony on their own accord. Democrats will be hosting the interviews, but they've indicated the doors remain open for their Republican colleagues to join. 

Schiff said efforts to obtain information throughout the yearlong probe would have been far more expedient if Republicans had been willing to "subpoena people who have information about what the Russians did."

"We urged the Republicans for months to bring in these witnesses. They claimed to have wanted to get this done expeditiously, but they would sit on these witnesses," he said.

Democrats have accused the majority of prematurely shutting down an investigation in order to shield the White House. Republicans, on the other hand, argue they have collected enough evidence to present their findings after interviewing dozens of witnesses and reviewing scores of documents.

The top Republican spearheading the high-profile probe on Monday appeared to have little appetite to hold any more Russia-related interviews.

“I have no intention of bringing in any other witnesses for the Russia investigation,” Rep. Mike ConawayKenneth (Mike) Michael ConawayLaughter 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 Live coverage: House holds third day of public impeachment hearings MORE (R-Texas) told reporters when asked whether he wants to hear from the data firm. He said the decision to bring in any further witnesses will be up to Nunes once the majority completes their report on Russian interference on Thursday.

When asked whether he would attend the Democrats's voluntary interviews, the Texas Republican suggested it depends on "what they want to ask them." 

After Facebook announced it was suspending Cambridge Analytica for abusing user data over the weekend, a flood of new reports added further scrutiny to the firm's alleged activity during the campaign.

Wylie came forward once the news broke, claiming the company shared some of its data with Russian oil companies that have ties to the FSB, Russia's main security agency. He claimed that the Facebook data of more than 50 million users was "misused," information he alleged the social media platform sat on for two years before taking action against the firm.

The firm has denied allegations of wrongdoing.

Such claims have prompted Democrats to voice concern over Cambridge Analytica's alleged ties to the Kremlin, The controversy comes at a time when lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are increasingly voicing concern that Moscow will seek to meddle in the upcoming midterm elections.

The U.S. intelligence community along with both the House and Senate Intelligence panels found that the Russians sought to sow discord and amp up tensions among the American electorate during the 2016 election.