Intel chairman says FBI starting to answer questions on Russia probe

Intel chairman says FBI starting to answer questions on Russia probe
© Greg Nash

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSunday shows - Guns dominate after Democratic debate Schiff: Diplomacy with Iran 'only way out of this situation' Sunday shows preview: Democratic candidates make the rounds after debate MORE (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that the FBI is starting to respond to his inquiries about the counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference that preceded special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal MORE’s probe.

“We have started to get answers from the FBI,” Schiff told reporters at the National Press Club Wednesday. “They are not nearly complete. I would describe it as the beginning of their response, not the end, but I think they recognize that they are going to have to live up to their legal obligations.”

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Schiff did not back off his threat to subpoena FBI Director Christopher Wray if the panel is not satisfied with the bureau’s response to remaining questions about the counterintelligence investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“We have started to get answers, but as we have seen all too often in the last six months, without the threat of coercion, we don’t get anything,” Schiff said. “I think patience is running out at every level so we are going to continue to press the FBI to get answers. If necessary we will bring the FBI director under subpoena.”

One week ago, Schiff threatened to subpoena the FBI over the counterintelligence probe, saying he has been unable to receive briefings or information on the status or findings of the investigation. 

Schiff said he has not been briefed on the investigation, the existence of which then-FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyHouse Democrats seeking Sessions's testimony in impeachment probe Justice OIG completes probe on FBI surveillance of ex-Trump campaign aide Aggrieved Trump rips Dems for 'sad' impeachment effort MORE revealed in March 2017, since Comey was ousted by Trump two months later. Schiff says he was also never notified that the investigation had ended. 

When asked to expand on what he has learned from the FBI, Schiff said Wednesday that the bureau began by explaining how it conducts a traditional counterintelligence investigation — which has a beginning and a formal end.

“Whether that process was followed here, we still do not know,” Schiff said, noting that clearly some of the investigation was ended given the conclusion of Mueller’s probe. But Schiff raised questions about its scope and whether parts of it may still be active.

Schiff has repeatedly raised questions about the status of the original counterintelligence investigation, saying that Mueller’s report — which only makes a brief reference to it — provides no information about the findings. 

The Justice Department has separately begun sharing with the committee some of the foreign intelligence and counterintelligence files related to Mueller’s investigation. Schiff did not comment on those Wednesday.

Schiff said he’s particularly interested in what Americans the FBI investigated as potentially wittingly or unwittingly acting as agents of a foreign power, what the bureau’s conclusions were, and whether any investigations remain open.

Schiff also described Mueller’s 10-minute press conference addressing his investigation’s conclusions as insufficient, saying the special counsel needs to testify — whether voluntarily or under subpoena. Schiff did not give a timeline on when Democrats may subpoena Mueller to compel his appearance.

“I also think time and patience are running out on that front,” Schiff said.

Both the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees are negotiating separately for Mueller’s appearance. Mueller indicated last month that he was unwilling to testify publicly before Congress.