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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 NunesOvernight Energy: Trump, California leaders clash over fires | Trump says oil prices should be 'much lower' | Zinke criticizes media coverage | Officials consider new truck pollution rule Trump, California battle over climate and cause of fires Nunes defeats Dem challenger in California House race 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 KushnerTrump eyes post-midterm shakeup Congress braces for high-drama lame duck Trump’s tough-love policy for China MORE, former senior adviser Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonJudd Gregg: With the midterms over, opportunity knocks Bannon, ex-Trump officials talked Roger Stone, WikiLeaks with Mueller: report The Memo: Trump remark sparks debate over nationalism MORE and former communications director Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksTrump played key role in coordinating hush money payments to Daniels, McDougal: report Trump: 'I don't call it tweeting. I call it social media' The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Trump heads to battleground Iowa, where GOP House members seek help MORE, as well as Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpMueller targets Stone in final push Robert De Niro says goodbye to ‘Jeff Sessions’ on ‘Saturday Night Live’ Election Countdown: Recount prospects grow in Florida | Abrams team to sue over absentee ballots | Dem wins pivotal Georgia House seat | A look at the uncalled races | Corporations spend big to beat ballot measures 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 StewartTrump attacks fuel GOP fears about losing suburban women GOP lawmaker: Trump comments about Stormy Daniels 'unpresidential' Lawmakers fail to pass annual intel bill after key Dem objects 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 SwalwellSwalwell calls acting AG an 'assassin' hired to 'take out' Mueller probe Swalwell on wildfires: Trump ‘owns a lot of the problem’ on forest management Pelosi allies push back on proposed Speaker nominee rule change 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 TrumpDeath toll in Northern California wildfire rises to 48: authorities Graham backs bill to protect Mueller Denham loses GOP seat in California MORE’s son-in-law. Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffIncoming N.J. Dem lawmaker says she won't vote for Pelosi as Speaker Whitaker saying he won’t cut Mueller funding: report Incoming Intelligence chair wants to release interviews to aid Mueller probe MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee, criticized Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyTrey Gowdy: Sessions was 'dead man walking for several months' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Explosives sent to Obamas, Clintons, CNN | White House condemns attempted attacks House Republicans postpone Rosenstein interview 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 ComeyFeinstein requests Senate hearings with Whitaker, Sessions If Mueller were fired, could he — would he — go public? The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Trump says Florida races should be called for GOP | Latest on California wildfires | Congress set for dramatic lame duck 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.”