Donald Trump Jr. and his lawyer formally requested an investigation Tuesday into leaks from the House Intelligence Committee that followed Trump's participation in a closed-door interview with committee members and staffers last week.
“The public release of confidential non-public information by Committee members continued unabated” for 24 hours after Trump’s supposedly confidential interview last week, Trump’s lawyer, Alan Futerfas, wrote in a letter delivered Tuesday afternoon.
The four-page letter, addressed to Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.), the panel chairman overseeing the Russia investigation, complains about public comments made by three members of the panel, all Democrats, including the highest-ranking minority member of the panel, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.). The letter says that members and staffers began “selectively leaking information” even before the closed-door meeting ended.
Schiff’s spokesman said in response that the congressman and his staff “do not leak classified or confidential information.” The spokesman, Patrick Boland, noted, however, that “we do not permit witnesses to represent publicly that they are fully cooperating with our committee and privately refuse to answer questions pertinent to our investigation on the basis of meritless claims of privilege.”
Just after the hearing, Schiff told reporters that Trump Jr. had declined to discuss details of a July telephone conversation with his father about a 2016 meeting at which Trump campaign officials had expected to receive damaging information from the Russian government about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Schiff’s spokesman said Tuesday: “While we do not discuss the substance of a witness’s testimony, we do reserve the right to inform the public of their noncooperation and do not allow them to conceal that behind closed doors.”
The letter from Futerfas describes repeated assurances provided to Trump Jr. in advance of the Intelligence Committee interview that the proceedings would be treated as confidential unless the full committee voted to release a transcript. Yet public comments by Schiff and Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) breached the confidentiality agreement, the letter says.
Speier said in response Tuesday that “I had every right to characterize his testimony as nonresponsive while not revealing the substance of his testimony. And I will continue to do that for any witness who appears unwilling to answer questions.” A spokesman for Swalwell said the congressman backed the views expressed by Schiff’s office.
Futerfas wrote that the public comments last week by the three Democrats about the closed-door meeting “was sufficiently brazen” that he was notified the next day by the majority staff of the committee that Trump Jr. was no longer bound by the confidentiality rule imposed in advance of his appearance.
The letter specifically complains that committee members or staffers “began disseminating wildly inaccurate information” to reporters about an email that suggested that Trump Jr. may have received an invitation to access WikiLeaks documents damaging to Clinton before those documents had been made publicly available.
Broadcast accounts of that email first reported the wrong date of the email conversation. In fact, it was sent after the publication of the WikiLeaks information, making the email less significant and leading networks to correct their initial reports.
“These disturbing circumstances warrant examination,” Futerfas wrote. “This committee should determine whether any member or staff member violated the Rules by leaking information to the media concerning the interview or by purposely providing inaccurate information which led to significant misreporting.”
Trump Jr. is expected to return to Capitol Hill in coming days to speak behind closed doors with the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Alice Crites contributed to this report.