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 NunesJuan Williams: Trump, his allies and the betrayal of America Trump expected to nominate Texas GOP lawmaker to replace Dan Coats: report House Republicans claim victory after Mueller hearings MORE (R-Calif.) recently said on Fox News. “And they need to be published, I think, before the election."

ADVERTISEMENT
The trove of documents include committee interviews with past and present White House officials such as senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTop immigration aide experienced 'jolt of electricity to my soul' when Trump announced campaign Dick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report Trump Jr. dismisses conflicts of interest, touts projects in Indonesia MORE, former senior adviser Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonThe specter of Steve Bannon may loom over 2020 Trump campaign Sunday shows - Trump's Epstein conspiracy theory retweet grabs spotlight Steve Bannon: 'President Trump is not a racist' MORE and former communications director Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksHope Hicks defends accuracy of her congressional testimony Nadler subpoenas Lewandowski, former White House official for testimony House panel to go to court to enforce McGahn subpoena, Nadler says MORE, as well as Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpDick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report House chairman warns foreign governments to 'cease and desist' spending money at Trump properties Chris Cuomo: 'I should be better than the guys baiting me' 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 StewartFCC proposes new 3-digit suicide prevention hotline number GOP lawmaker's town hall erupts in shouting over mass shootings, Trump Live coverage: Mueller testifies before Congress 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 SwalwellHickenlooper ends presidential bid Scenes from Iowa State Fair: Surging Warren, Harris draw big crowds Nadler hits gas on impeachment 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 TrumpTrump pushes back on recent polling data, says internal numbers are 'strongest we've had so far' Illinois state lawmaker apologizes for photos depicting mock assassination of Trump Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump MORE’s son-in-law. Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Schiff offers bill to make domestic terrorism a federal crime New intel chief inherits host of challenges MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee, criticized Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyRising star Ratcliffe faces battle to become Trump's intel chief Cummings announces expansion of Oversight panel's White House personal email probe, citing stonewalling Pelosi says it's up to GOP to address sexual assault allegation against Trump 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 Comey3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 Barr predicts progressive prosecutors will lead to 'more crime, more victims' James Comey shows our criminal justice system works as intended 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 (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: 'I'd like to know' if Mueller read his own report 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.”