The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee wants to clarify with White House counsel whether President Donald Trump’s tweets about not having tapes of conversations with former FBI Director James B. Comey constitutes an official statement from the White House.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the committee, said Thursday he believes a request that the panel receive any evidence of tapes by Friday prompted Trump to respond the day before in an effort to avoid the administration from being subpoenaed.
In a tweet on Thursday, Trump said he had “no idea” if there were tapes and that he did not record the conversations.
“This begs a lot of questions about why he would suggest in the first place there were tapes, what he hoped to gain by that and moreover why he kept the country guessing about this issue for weeks,” Schiff said.
Still, the California Democrat said he would continue to question future witnesses on the existence on any tapes of Comey. The panel has also requested the former FBI director’s memos, which he said he kept after every meeting and conversation he had with Trump.
Schiff also took issue with Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes′ involvement in the panel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the election and possible ties between Trump’s campaign associates and the Kremlin.
Nunes named three other members of the committee, led by Rep. K. Michael Conaway of Texas, to take over the Russia probe after Nunes became the subject of an Ethics Committee investigation into whether he improperly made classified information public — a case that has yet to be resolved.
“The most significant remaining issue is the chair is still insisting on the sign off of our subpoenas,” Schiff said. “That shouldn’t be happening.”
Nunes defended himself on a California radio station this week saying he had never recused himself from the investigation despite the new members taking over the investigation, a public announcement made by his own office publicly in April.
Schiff would not answer in what other ways Nunes is involved in the Russia investigation including whether the chairman shows up to Gang of Eight of senior leaders and Intelligence Committee leader briefings.
Schiff downplayed reports of committee staff infighting, but admitted to possible tension because of the involvement of Nunes’ staff.
“There have been issues with some of the chairman’s staff,” Schiff said, only leaving it at that.
The California Democrat’s counterpart in the Senate, Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner of Virginia said he was baffled by the president’s remarks.
“It’s remarkable that the president was so flippant to make his original tweet and then frankly stonewall the media and the country for weeks,” Warner said. “I don’t know how this serves the country’s interests. I think in many ways it was maybe an attempt to intimidate Jim Comey, which it obviously didn’t. Mr. Comey’s testimony was critical. But as I said earlier this administration never ceases to amaze me”