Schiff Says Russia Probe `Far From Done' After GOP Shuts It Down
(Bloomberg) -- The top Democrat on the House Intelligence panel said he plans to continue work on the Russia probe despite Republican moves to shut it down, saying 30 witnesses still need to be interviewed.
“Our work is far from done,” Representative Adam Schiff told reporters Tuesday, a day after Republicans said they were ending the inquiry after finding no evidence of collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives who meddled in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Schiff said that Democrats will write their own conclusions and plan to release transcripts of the panel’s interviews at that time.
“It will take us time to finish that work," he said, adding that intelligence agencies will need to review the transcripts for classified information.
“We intend to append to our report the complete transcripts of all the witnesses,” Schiff said. “The majority has said they support making these transcripts public. We will put to the test of whether they really do.”
Republicans have reversed earlier plans to release witness interviews. Representative Michael Conaway of Texas, who has been leading the probe, said in an interview Monday night that “we may not be able to do that, turns out” because that might discourage future witnesses from appearing before the panel.
Schiff released a 21-page status report listing witnesses, documents and angles that Democrats say still need to be pursued. Those include questions about the hacking of campaign emails; possible contacts between Trump associates and Russian intermediates; and election security.
“There were leads and investigative paths on, from my perspective, three different significant areas,” said panel Democrat Joaquin Castro of Texas. “First on collusion, second on money laundering, and third on obstruction of justice.”
Democrats said the committee never requested documents from about 20 entities of interest, including Deutsche Bank AG, social-media companies and the National Rifle Association.
Democrats say Republicans refused to interview a number of significant witnesses, including former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, former chief of staff Reince Priebus, and former national security aide K.T. McFarland.
Among the more than 15 people and groups Democrats say should be compelled to appear again or produce documents are Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, former White House communications director Hope Hicks, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Democrats also said that former Trump strategist Steve Bannon should face contempt proceedings for refusing to answer many of the panel’s questions.
In particular, Democrats said the committee failed to investigate fully Trump’s business operations.
“There also remain critical unanswered questions about the source of President Trump’s personal and corporate financing,” they wrote. “For example, Deutsche Bank, which was fined $630 million in 2017 over its involvement in a $10 billion Russian money-laundering scheme, consistently has been the source of financing for President Trump, his businesses, and his family. We have only begun to explore the relationship between President Trump and Deutsche Bank, and between the bank and Russia.”
The Democratic report also said that the panel needs to further investigate the role played by social media networks during the election.
Specifically, it said the committee should send letters to Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google requesting that they “pool resources and conduct a joint investigation into the full scope and depth of the Russian influence campaign.” Democrats also said the companies should publish a public repository of all content in their networks linked to suspicious Russian accounts.
In addition, Democrats said the committee should subpoena Twitter and Facebook’s WhatsApp for messages between key accounts in the investigation, including a hacking persona linked to Russia known as Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.
They also said they should seek records from Apple Inc. on downloaded encrypted messaging apps used by key individuals in the probe.
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