Schiff lays out Intel panel's Russia probe parameters

Schiff lays out Intel panel's Russia probe parameters
© Greg Nash

The head of the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday released the panel's investigative parameters for conducting its Russia probe, which will serve as a roadmap as Democrats dig into Moscow's involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

"The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence ('Committee') will conduct a rigorous investigation into efforts by Russia and other foreign entities to influence the U.S. political process during and since the 2016 U.S. election," Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump says lawmakers should censure Schiff Schiff says committees will eventually make impeachment inquiry transcripts public The comments and actions of Schiff demand his formal censure MORE (D-Calif.) said in a statement.

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"In addition, the Committee will investigate the counterintelligence threat arising from any links or coordination between U.S. persons and the Russian government and/or other foreign entities, including any financial or other leverage such foreign actors may possess," he continued.

Schiff, who is now empowered with the authority of a committee gavel, said the committee is going to start the probe by focusing on five key areas. 

The areas are matters directly related to Russian interference; possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow; whether a foreign actor has sought to compromise or holds leverage over President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP congressman slams Trump over report that U.S. bombed former anti-ISIS coalition headquarters US to restore 'targeted assistance' to Central American countries after migration deal Trump says lawmakers should censure Schiff MORE; whether Trump or anyone in his orbit are under foreign influence; and whether any actors are trying to "impede" or "obstruct" investigations into these matters.

Republicans on the panel brought the probe to an end last spring, a move Democrats protested at the time as being premature. Democrats say they now will be able to investigate other lines of inquiry that the GOP prevented them from doing when they were in the minority.

"Unfortunately, these and numerous other avenues of inquiry were not completed during the last Congress," Schiff said in his statement.

Trump also took aim at these probes during his State of the Union address Tuesday night, calling them “ridiculous partisan investigations.”

“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way,” Trump said at the Capitol.

Schiff, in response, said the committee will not be deterred.

“His efforts to discourage any meaningful oversight, that is a nonstarter. We are not going to be intimidated or threatened by the president to withhold any legislative advancement,” Schiff told reporters on Wednesday. 

The investigation, he noted, will be conducted with the help of other committees.

"The Committee may pursue additional lines of inquiry regarding matters that arise from the investigation, and it intends to cooperate with other congressional committees, as needed, on matters of overlapping interest," he said.

Schiff also indicated to reporters that the probe will expand beyond concerns on specifically Russian influence, stating that they will examine matters to see if any other foreign actors, such as Saudi Arabia, also have sought to compromise or gain leverage on Trump and his inner circle.

His statement came shortly after the panel voted to release unredacted witness transcripts to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be 'more serious' than what Mueller 'dragged up' Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network MORE that the committee conducted while Republicans were in the majority.

The special counsel, who is examining Russian interference and ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, has charged more than two dozen Russians for interfering in the 2016 election.