Tension Mounts as Intel Chairman Cancels Public Russia Hearing

(Rob Kunzig/Morning Consult)

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Friday blasted House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) for postponing a public hearing with former Obama administration intelligence officials on Russian efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, told reporters at the Capitol that Nunes’ decision to cancel the hearing scheduled for Tuesday and instead have Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers privately brief committee members was “at most, a dodge” after “very strong pushback from the White House about the nature of Monday’s hearing.”

During Monday’s public hearing, Comey confirmed the FBI was investigating potential ties between associates of President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin, and said there was no evidence to support Trump’s claim that former President Barack Obama had ordered Trump Tower wiretapped while Obama was still in office.

Former Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper had been scheduled to testify next Tuesday.

“This is not a desire to have them come back in closed session, and somehow that’s a conflict with having an open hearing that is already scheduled and witnesses who have already agreed to appear,” Schiff said.

Schiff has criticized Nunes since the chairman went to the White House and shared documents allegedly showing incidental surveillance of Trump and his associates before sharing them with the House Intelligence Committee.

When asked if Nunes should step down as chairman, Schiff said that’s a decision for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). That decision, he said, should be based on whether Ryan wants the committee to be able to conduct a “credible investigation.”

Speaking earlier on Friday, Nunes said it was “not going to be worth it” to hear from the Obama administration officials until more questions were answered by Comey and Rogers. Nunes also said that Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, has offered to testify before his panel as it continues its probe, but added that he wasn’t sure whether that testimony would take place in public or behind closed doors.

“If he wants to come out in public and have a public hearing, he’s more than welcome to do that,” the California Republican said. “We want more people to come forward.”

Schiff said he hoped that as much of Manafort’s testimony as possible would occur in public.

Democratic lawmakers on the panel would likely inquire about any ties between Manafort and Russian oligarchs, as well as others pushing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s agenda in Eastern Europe, and whether that may have contributed to his actions on Trump’s campaign.

When asked whether the committee would seek to compel testimony from former Trump associate Roger Stone, Nunes said he wasn’t going to call others before the panel based on their appearances in news reports.

“We’re not going to get into a neo-McCarthyism hearing here where we just start bringing in Americans because they were mentioned in a press story,” he said.

Nunes also said that NSA documents about the incidental collection may not be provided to the committee until next week.

Morning Consult