House panel signals Russia probe document dump before midterms

House panel signals Russia probe document dump before midterms

The head of the House Intelligence Committee is signaling plans to release interview transcripts from the panel’s now-concluded Russia investigation, arguing that it’s important for the depositions to become public before the November midterm elections.

"We believe that the depositions that we took, I think nearly about 70 people, those need to be published,” Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesHillicon Valley: EU hits Google with .7 billion antitrust fine | GOP steps up attack over tech bias claims | Dems ask FTC for budget wishlist | Justices punt on Google privacy settlement Devin Nunes 'cow' parody account overtakes Nunes in Twitter followers MSNBC's Hayes on Nunes's Twitter lawsuit: US 'almost literally founded on mocking political leaders' MORE (R-Calif.) recently said on Fox News. “And they need to be published, I think, before the election."

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The trove of documents include committee interviews with past and present White House officials such as senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerCummings says Ivanka Trump not preserving all official communications Kushner accused of using WhatsApp, personal email to conduct official business: report Trump: 'It is time' to recognize Israeli control of Golan Heights MORE, former senior adviser Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonFilmmaker behind Bannon doc says the movie a 'damning portrayal' Avoiding the tragedy of Brexit Bannon predicts 2019 will be 'most vitriolic year' in US politics 'since before the Civil War' MORE and former communications director Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksFormer White House staffer Hope Hicks to cooperate with Dems' probe into Trump The five Trump communications directors who have come and gone Hillicon Valley: Dems unleash sprawling Trump probe | Pelosi says Dems will offer net neutrality bill this week | Cyber espionage campaign linked to North Korea | Huawei exec sues Canada MORE, as well as Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpOn The Money: Liberal groups pressure Dems over Trump's tax returns | Top Trump economist says tax cuts powering economy | Trump Jr. slams Theresa May over Brexit delay | Watchdog warns of 'rosy' assumptions in Trump budget Trump Jr. slams Brexit delay: 'Theresa May should have taken my father's advice' The Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms MORE, the president’s eldest son.

Under committee rules, Nunes would have to let the panel members -- 13 Republicans and nine Democrats -- vote on whether to make the transcripts public.

“I would support releasing as many of these documents and transcripts as possible,” Rep. Chris StewartChristopher (Chris) Douglas StewartHill-HarrisX poll: 76 percent oppose Trump pardoning former campaign aides Dems fear Trump is looking at presidential pardons House passes series of measures hitting Russia, Putin MORE (R-Utah), a member of the committee, told The Hill on Friday. “However, there’s a process we have to go through first, and a release is not imminent.”

A spokesman for Nunes declined to comment on the timeline for a potential document release.

It is also unclear whether all of the transcripts would be released together, or if batches of records would be made public in a piecemeal fashion.

The panel voted along party lines in March to wrap up the probe, with Republicans saying they found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Democrats called the vote premature, arguing that their GOP colleagues were trying shield the president from further scrutiny.

But partisan sniping surrounding the investigation hasn’t subsided. While both sides say they want the transcripts released, the debate now has to do with timing.

The message from Democrats to Nunes: less talk, more action.

“If Chairman Nunes wants to release them now, he shouldn't talk about it, he should just set a hearing and allow us to vote and do it,” Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellTrump reignites criticism of McCain months after senator's death Swalwell jokes about 'bad decisions' after bleached-hair yearbook photo resurfaces Dem lawmakers unveil Journalist Protection Act amid Trump attacks on media MORE (D-Calif.), a senior Democrat on the committee, told The Hill. “Americans should see the transcripts of the limited Russia investigation we conducted. Republicans promised they’d do that and have since buried the evidence.”

The transcripts would be an opportunity for the public to see what witnesses told lawmakers about high-profile events during the 2016 presidential campaign, including the Trump Tower meeting that involved a Russian lawyer and senior members of the Trump campaign.

While the Senate Judiciary Committee in May released transcripts from a series of Trump Tower-related interviews, the House Intelligence Committee transcripts are expected to include previously unreported details.

Democrats say the House transcripts will let voters see that Republican lawmakers served up softball questions for witnesses like Kushner, President TrumpDonald John TrumpCummings says Ivanka Trump not preserving all official communications Property is a fundamental right that is now being threatened 25 states could see severe flooding in coming weeks, scientists say MORE’s son-in-law. Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffWhite House rejects Dem request for documents on Trump-Putin communications Dems request probe into spa owner suspected of trying to sell access to Trump Dems fear Trump is looking at presidential pardons MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee, criticized Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyTop Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview Gowdy calls congressional hearings like Cohen's 'utterly useless' The family secret Bruce Ohr told Rod Rosenstein about Russia case MORE (S.C.) at the time, saying that his GOP colleague was acting like a defense attorney for Kushner during the interview.

Republicans, with the backing of Trump, are also pushing for the release of other Russia probe-related documents, including the FBI’s surveillance application used to obtain a wiretap on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, FBI reports of interviews with Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, and text messages from former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyComey: I'm not rooting for Mueller to demonstrate Trump is a criminal Trump's attacks on McCain exacerbate tensions with Senate GOP Former White House staffer Hope Hicks to cooperate with Dems' probe into Trump MORE and other top officials.

But whether those documents will become public, particularly before the midterms, remains to be seen following Friday comments by Trump signaling a delay on that front.

In response to the delay, Nunes accused the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) of seeking to block Republican efforts to have the documents released.

"Every time we make a request to the DOJ or FBI, we get stonewalled for many days," Nunes said Friday on Fox News.

Republicans, who are calling for transparency, say the Page surveillance application and other documents will provide evidence to their argument that the top brass at the FBI and DOJ were biased against Trump.

The documents Trump has ordered to be released could provide a rare insight into the decision-making of top federal officials regarding a high-profile FBI investigation, but former intelligence officials also warn that the monumental disclosure poses a serious conflict of interest since the documents are related to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s probe.

Schiff this past week suggested there has been coordination between Nunes’s effort to release his committee’s interview transcripts and Trump’s order to make public a set of Russia probe-related documents.

“Why the sudden about-face to be immediately followed by the White House ordering its own release? This is coordinated between the president and his allies,” Schiff said Tuesday on MSNBC. “And in the process, important sources and important precedent of protecting those sources may be violated by this president who cares little about the national security.”