House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said Monday that his panel could in as soon as two weeks resume interviewing witnesses as part of its probe into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and allegations that the names of the president and his transition team were revealed in surveillance reports.
Nunes (R-Calif.) said “it’s possible” that the committee could interview witnesses in “that week after Easter” when Congress is scheduled to be on the second week of a two-week recess. Nunes would not say whom the committee planned to interview or what the format of the interviews might be.
The committee’s Russia investigation effectively ground to a halt last week after Nunes said it would be difficult to schedule interviews or depositions before FBI Director James B. Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers returned to Capitol Hill for additional closed-door testimony, following open testimony they gave two weeks ago.
A scheduled, open hearing that would have featured testimony last week from former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., former CIA director John Brennan and former acting attorney general Sally Yates was canceled to make way for the return of Comey and Rogers to Capitol Hill, Nunes said — although The Washington Post later reported that the White House sought to keep Yates from testifying.
Democrats have accused Nunes, who served on Trump’s transition team, of coordinating his actions with the White House.
Nunes said Monday that the Comey and Rogers meeting has still not been scheduled and that the holdup was “with Comey, not with anyone else.”
He said that Republicans were ready to move on other interviews “that are not contingent on Comey’s testimony.” He added that there are only “some witnesses that we cannot bring in until Comey comes back.”
He noted that the schedule of interviews is still being planned and that “nothing’s been set in stone.”
But Nunes seemed to throw the burden of moving ahead onto committee Democrats, noting, “We have our process in place, we’re waiting to see what the Democrats’ process will be.”
“I think our folks are ready to go,” he added, referring to the Republican members of the committee and noting they wanted to get “interviews scheduled as quickly as possible.”
When asked whether Democrats were cooperating on scheduling interviews, he said: “Regardless, it’s moving forward.”
A spokesman for the committee’s ranking Democrat, Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), did not comment when reached Monday evening.
The House Intelligence Committee has been gripped by bitter discord for nearly two weeks, as members of each party accuse the other side of hijacking the committee investigation to score political points. On Monday, the committee held its first regular “hot spots” meeting in a week, in which they address issues beyond the Russia investigation.
Members emerging from that meeting were tight-lipped about the tenor of committee relations following the discord of last week. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) described the meeting as “regular,” while Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.) said: “We compartmentalize.”
Much of the swirling anger has focused around a visit Nunes made to the White House grounds nearly two weeks ago to meet with a source and view documents he said raised concerns that President Trump’s name and those of his surrogates might have been revealed in surveillance reports focused on foreign targets.
The Washington Post has since reported that at least three senior White House officials, including the top lawyer for the National Security Council, were involved in handling the documents that came to Nunes’s attention.
Nunes has refused to comment on the identity of his source. He also would not say Monday whether the interviews he hoped to schedule later this month would be on the subject of those unmasked reports or would be related to the allegations of potential ties between Russian officials and members of the Trump team that the committee has also been probing.
The committee earlier requested information from the FBI, CIA and NSA identifying which U.S. persons have been “unmasked” in surveillance reports focused elsewhere.