The House Intelligence Committee voted Friday to release almost all of the transcripts of the interviews it conducted as part of an investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
Panel Democrats have been clamoring for the release of the documents for months, but it was only in recent weeks that chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) also began to opine that the transcripts should be made public, saying it should be done before the November elections.
Friday’s vote has not resolved the committee’s ongoing political tension, however, as Republicans and Democrats argued over plans to omit five interview transcripts from the release.
“They’re trying to bury them as long as they can,” the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), said of the Republicans.
The five transcripts include closed-door interviews with former FBI director James B. Comey, former NSA director Adm. Mike Rogers and former CIA director John Brennan. A transcript of the panel’s interview with former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. will be included with the transcripts that are released pending the intelligence community’s redactions.
The panel also elected not to release the transcripts from interviews with two sitting members of Congress, Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who served as the head of the Democratic National Committee when its emails were hacked ahead of the 2016 election, and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who had contacts with Russian officials.
Schiff said Friday that Wasserman Schultz had no objections to her interview being made public.
The vote sets the stage for the release of 53 transcripts as soon as next week, provided the intelligence community does not take issue with releasing the information. Both Democratic and Republican members of the committee have said there is not much classified information contained in the interviews, and redacting the transcripts should be straightforward.
Schiff said that committee Democrats would likely release additional transcripts of interviews they conducted independent of the panel’s Republicans. He complained, however, that committee Republicans voted down an effort to turn over a complete, unredacted set of its interview transcripts to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is leading an investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
“We have suspicions that people testified before our committee falsely and committed perjury,” Schiff said. “The special counsel is in the best position to determine on the basis of the additional information he has who might have perjured themselves.”