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: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Lawmakers grapple with deepfake threat at hearing 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 KushnerFinancial disclosure form shows Ivanka Trump earned M from DC Trump hotel Financial disclosure form shows Ivanka Trump earned M from DC Trump hotel Kim Kardashian West joins Trump at White House event for ex-prisoners MORE, former senior adviser Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin Bannon Ocasio-Cortez: 'I want to know about the racism' involved with census citizenship question CNN's Jim Acosta: Trump is 'crazy like a fox' BBC News anchor confronts Michael Wolff for using Bannon as a source for his book MORE and former communications director Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle The Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle Hope Hicks agrees to testify before House panel MORE, as well as Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpTrump remarks deepen distrust with intelligence community Trump remarks deepen distrust with intelligence community Lieu trolls Trump with 'warning' to foreign powers on office door 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 StewartHouse Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally House Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally 58 GOP lawmakers vote against disaster aid bill 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 SwalwellCampaign dads fit fatherhood between presidential speeches Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments 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 cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE’s son-in-law. Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSchiff: Intelligence agencies focused on Russian interference 'even if the president isn't' Schiff: Intelligence agencies focused on Russian interference 'even if the president isn't' Schiff: Bolton, Pompeo undercutting Trump's attempts to stay out of war MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee, criticized Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyOur sad reality: Donald Trump is no Eisenhower GOP takes aim at Comey, Brennan House Dem calls on lawmakers to 'insulate' election process following Mueller report 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 ComeyFive memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House Five memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House Under Trump, our democracy is for sale 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 MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump 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.”