House Intelligence Committee to vote on releasing Russia interview transcripts

Posted at 9:06 PM, Sep 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-26 23:25:22-04

The House Intelligence Committee will vote Friday to release the transcripts of more than 50 interviews the panel conducted as part of its investigation into Russian election meddling, the committee posted Wednesday.

The vote, scheduled by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, will pave the way for the public release of closed-door interviews with senior Trump associates — including Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Hope Hicks and Jeff Sessions — as well as several senior Obama administration officials.

The transcripts will not be immediately released after the committee votes Friday. The vote will send them to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for a classification review before they are released. Most of the committees interviews were unclassified, though some were conducted in classified session.

The transcripts will provide thousands of pages to detail what was a tense, partisan battle fought between Democrats and Republicans on the committee, with an investigation that ended in accusations, finger-pointing and name calling between the two sides.

But they also are likely to provide the first look at how some of the key players in the Russia investigation explain events like the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting and the WikiLeaks’ release of Democratic emails during the 2016 campaign.

When Republicans ended their investigation earlier this year, Democrats vowed to continue probing potential collusion between Trump’s team and Russian officials. They also called for all of the interview transcripts to be released, charging that the interviews would show how their Republican colleagues failed to press Trump’s associates on key collusion questions.

Republicans who led the investigation — Nunes stepped aside from being directly involved in the probe and was present for interviews — had initially called for the transcripts to be released, but they deferred to Nunes when Republicans issued their report that concluded the panel found no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

Nunes showed no inclination to release the transcripts until recently, when he said in a Fox News interview the transcripts should be released before the midterm elections.

“We believe that the depositions that we took…those need to be published and they need to be published I think before the election,” Nunes said on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures” earlier this month.

A spokesman for Nunes did not respond to a request for comment about Friday’s business meeting.

The committee isn’t planning to release all of its transcripts tied to the Russia investigation. It conducted interviews with two House members — Reps. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a Florida Democrat — that aren’t on the list to be made public.

The panel also did not include transcripts for several closed hearings that were conducted in connection with the Russia probe, where former FBI Director James Comey, former NSA Director Mike Rogers and former CIA Director John Brennan testified last year.

Several other classified interviews are included, including with former Obama administration officials James Clapper, Loretta Lynch, Ben Rhodes and Sally Yates, as well as former FBI Director Andrew McCabe. But a majority of the interviews have connection with the Trump campaign or Trump’s business orbit, including Roger Stone, Corey Lewandowski, Steve Bannon, Michael Caputo, Rick Dearborn, Rhona Graff, JD Gordon, Brad Parscale and Felix Sater.