The House Intelligence Committee will release all transcripts from its 2017 and 2018 Russia investigation to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — And eventually, the documents will be released to the public.
The committee voted on the step to release the transcripts Wednesday at its organizational meeting, where it announced it will relaunch the probe and focus on five key areas of interest. The release peels back the curtain on closed-door discussions the then-Republican-controlled committee had with multiple close associates of President Donald Trump.
The panel voted in closed session to release the documents and conducted more procedural business, during its first meeting under the leadership of its new Committee Chairman, Democrat Adam Schiff.
The panel’s witness list over the past two years included Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and former campaign adviser Roger Stone. Both have pleaded guilty or been indicted for lying to Congress.
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Democratic lawmakers have previously cast doubt on the congressional testimony of the president’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and his son-in-law and senior adivser, Jared Kushner, among others.
The committee’s decision to release the remaining transcripts to the special counsel will allow Mueller to comb them for inconsistencies, or answers that may not match up with evidence the special counsel has amassed through documents and interviews with the same people.
To “protect ongoing investigative interests and information that remains classified,” the committee will release the transcripts on a rolling timeline, Intel Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement Wednesday. So that, “the American people have faith in the process and can assess for themselves the evidence that has been uncovered.”
Schiff also laid out five “interconnected lines of inquiry” that Democrats feel ranking member Devin Nunes of California did not adequately pursue when he was chairman last Congress.
Investigators will probe:
- The scope of Russia’s campaign to interfere in the 2016 election and the U.S. government’s response.
- Links between Russian officials, government conduits or other people, and Trump, his campaign, his transition team, his administration and his business.
- Whether any foreign person or group has blackmail or leverage on Trump and his inner circle, including financial leverage.
- Whether Trump or members of his inner circle have been at “heightened risk” of manipulation or coercion by foreign actors or governments, or sought to advance foreign interests
- Whether anyone has sought to impede the progress of congressional and Justice Department investigations into those matters.
Schiff also plans to draft legislation to “ensure the U.S. government is better positioned to counter future efforts to undermine our political process and national security,” he said.
At his Tuesday State of the Union address, Trump warned Democrats not to impede his agenda with investigations into his administration, even though executive oversight is Congress’ constitutional prerogative.
“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” Trump said.
Democrats have said they can walk (pass legislation) and chew gum (conduct oversight of the administration) at the same time.
“Of course, the Constitution requires us to do both. That is exactly how it works,” Chairman Elijah Cummings of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform said in a statement Tuesday.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday characterized the president’s comments on congressional oversight as a “threat.”
“That was a threat,” Pelosi told reporters after a Democratic Caucus meeting. “The president should not bring threats to the floor of the House.”