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 NunesBlack Caucus sees power grow with new Democratic majority Nunes's 2018 Dem challenger launches voting rights group Democrats: Concentrate on defeating, not impeaching 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 KushnerMcConnell blocks bill to reopen most of government More than Mueller: Senators must ask Barr about criminal justice policy Christie says Trump is surrounded by 'revolving door' of 'grifters' and 'felons' MORE, former senior adviser Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonChris Christie claims Jared Kushner enacted 'hit job' as revenge for prosecuting father On immigration - Congress should not pay the hostage taker Schiff says Kushner, Bannon invoked ‘bogus privileges’ in testimonies before Congress MORE and former communications director Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksHouse Dems planning to send Trump associates’ testimony to Mueller: report Trump played key role in coordinating hush money payments to Daniels, McDougal: report Trump: 'I don't call it tweeting. I call it social media' MORE, as well as Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpWatchdog group: Trump had over 1,400 conflicts of interest in first two years CNN's Gergen: Trump discouraging next generation from civil service The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump AG pick Barr grilled at hearing | Judge rules against census citizenship question | McConnell blocks second House bill to reopen government 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 StewartDem leaders avert censure vote against Steve King House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King House passes resolution condemning white nationalism 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 SwalwellDemocratic dark horses could ride high in 2020 Swalwell: Trump will be impeached by Congress or by ballot box The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump invites leaders to White House | Trump hits back at Romney op-ed | Fights we're watching in the new year 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 directed Cohen to lie to Congress about plans to build Trump Tower in Moscow during 2016 campaign: report DC train system losing 0k per day during government shutdown Senate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees MORE’s son-in-law. Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump cancels delegation's trip to Davos amid shutdown Trump fires back at Pelosi, cancels her foreign travel FISA shocker: DOJ official warned Steele dossier was connected to Clinton, might be biased MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee, criticized Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyCongress must take the next steps on federal criminal justice reforms Lynch testimony marks final interview of GOP-led probe Comey defends FBI actions on Flynn in House 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 ComeyThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Day 27 of the shutdown | Cohen reportedly paid company to rig online polls, boost his own image | Atlantic publishes ‘Impeach Donald Trump’ cover story Trump lashes out at Schumer: So funny to watch him 'groveling' 5 myths about William Barr 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.”