House Intel Committee’s top Dem on Friday blasted GOP chairman Devin Nunes after he cancelled Tuesday’s public hearing with members of the Obama administration.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates all had agreed to testify publicly before the committee on what they knew about Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Nunes canceled the public hearing, and then held a news conference to announce President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort had “volunteered” to be interviewed by the committee. That announcement was nothing but a bright shiny light to distract reporters – successfully – from news Nunes had canceled Tuesday’s public hearing with members of the Obama administration, Rep Adam Schiff charged, in a separate news conference that quickly followed Nunes’s.
Schiff suggested the White House had something to do with Nunes’ decision to scrap Tuesday’s open hearing, and did so in reax to Monday’s open hearing. At that hearing, viewers learned from FBI director James Comey that the bureau has, since July, been conducting a counter-intelligence investigation into whether there is any connection between Russia and associates of the Trump campaign.
Schiff walked reporters through the week’s events:
The two days that immediately followed Monday’s public hearing, “in what appears to be a dead-of-night excursion” Nunes reviewed documents about Trump associates that he has declined to share with Dem and GOP members of his own committee, Schiff told reporters. Nunes instead took the information directly to the White House, even though “it is associates of the president who are potentially the subject of investigation into whether they colluded in an way with the Russians,” he added.
That stunt “was wholly inappropriate and casts grave doubts into the ability to run a credible investigation and the integrity of that investigation,” Schiff charged.
Continuing his dramatic tick-tock of the week, Schiff said he learned Thursday that Nunes wanted to close to the public, or scrap, Tuesday’s hearing. Schiff says he and others on the committee “resisted.” So here we are, on Friday and “the chairman has announced that the hearing is canceled” while also announcing he wants to bring back Comey and NSA director Mike Rogers, for a closed session, Schiff said.
The headline of the morning, Schiff schooled reporters, “is the cancellation of the public hearing, and the rest” – translation: Manafort news –”is designed to simply distract from that point.”
“There must have been a very strong push back from the White House about the nature of Monday’s hearing,” Schiff said. “It’s hard for me to come to any other conclusion about why an agreed-upon hearing would be suddenly cancelled. Clearly it had to do with the events of this week. [Nunes] himself said the cancellation had nothing to do with these documents that he saw, so we know that was not the issue. What other explanation can there be? There really is none when the witnesses are ready and available.”
Nunes this week created a crisis of confidence in the bipartisan committee, when he got access to information about intelligence gathering that swept up Trump and/or his associates. He took that information directly to Trump, whose associates are part of an FBI investigation about Russian rannygazoo in the election, while declining to share with members of his own committee. Schiff responded with a pressser, in which he said Nunes had to decide whether he wanted to lead the committee or be a Trump surrogate. Schiff followed that with news he had just seen new intel on collusion between Trump associates and Russia, which he described as the stuff of grand jury probes.