(Bloomberg) -- House Speaker Paul Ryan said Republicans are now “getting the cooperation necessary” to resolve their demands for classified information stemming from early stages of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Ryan spoke as Justice Department officials held two meetings with lawmakers on Thursday, succumbing to demands from President Donald Trump after revelations that the FBI had a confidential informant make contact with officials on Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016.
House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes has subpoenaed the Justice Department and FBI for secret information about the informant. Critics, including top congressional Democrats, argue that Republicans want to use the information to undercut the Russia investigation, which is now being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Emerging after the second meeting, Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters there’s “no evidence to support any allegation the FBI or any intelligence agency planted a spy in the Trump campaign.”
The president has suggested otherwise in a storm of tweets, including one on Thursday proclaiming that “SPYGATE could be one of the biggest scandals in history!”
In a move that injected the White House into the closed-door sessions on an investigation that affects the president, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Emmet Flood, a White House lawyer working on the Russia probe, made opening remarks before departing the two sessions. The briefings were organized by the Justice Department and the Office of Director of National Intelligence.
They spoke “to relay the president’s desire for as much openness as possible under the law,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “They also conveyed the president’s understanding of the need to protect human intelligence services and the importance of communication between the branches of government.”
Schiff said Flood’s presence at the meeting was “completely inappropriate.”
“His presence only underscores what Rudy Giuliani said: The president’s legal team expects to use information gleaned improperly from the Justice Department or the president’s allies in Congress to their legal advantage,” Schiff said in a statement. Former New York mayor Giuliani recently joined Trump’s legal team.
Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said “there’s never been a Gang of 8 meeting with a White House presence.” He was referring to a group of eight bipartisan congressional leaders who receive briefings on the nation’s most sensitive intelligence.
The first of Thursday’s meetings was originally intended for two Republicans, Nunes and Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy. After Democrats complained about being excluded, Ryan and Schiff were invited.
“I look forward to the prompt completion of the intelligence committee’s oversight work in this area now that they are getting the cooperation necessary for them to complete their work while protecting sources and methods,” Ryan said.
The second briefing was for leaders of both parties in the House and Senate, as well as the bipartisan leaders of the congressional Intelligence panels.
The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee called Thursday for the Justice Department to investigate who leaked the existence of the informant, saying he’s concerned it might be a member of Congress.
“I have a lot of concerns about that,” Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York said of the possibility that a lawmaker may have given such information to Trump through back channels.
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