After a rocky start, the House Intelligence Committee is plowing full steam ahead on its Russia probe with new leadership, a new witness list and new plans for hearings.
Republicans and Democrats on the committee have agreed on a witness list that is dozens of names long and includes campaign and transition team surrogates of President Trump who volunteered to be interviewed, according to two panel Democrats. The volunteers who have come forward include former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, former campaign advisers Carter Page and Roger Stone, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Members have also overcome bitter discord that threatened to undermine the committee probe under the tenure of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who after being accused of coordinating with the White House handed over leadership of the investigation to Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) earlier this month. Democrats on the committee are singing the praises of the conservative Conaway as “very fair-minded” and “very cooperative,” with one — Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) — even noting he had “nothing negative at all” to say about him.
But the bipartisan zeal is hitting a few snags with their Senate colleagues. Lawmakers are trying to iron out who will get first crack at key witnesses, such as former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper and former acting attorney general Sally Yates.
A Senate Judiciary subcommittee controlled by Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) scheduled both Yates and Clapper to publicly testify on May 8. That leaves House lawmakers to scramble so they don’t miss their chance to have maximum impact grilling them in open session in the future, or run into problems trying to schedule them for a second trip to Capitol Hill.
“We’re going to want to get through our entire witness list independent of what the Senate may do,” Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), a senior Intelligence Democrat said Wednesday, adding: “The Judiciary Committee over there obviously has questionable jurisdiction over people like Clapper and [former CIA Director] John Brennan.”
Himes said that House Intelligence was going “back and forth” with Graham’s office about “how can we do this in the most efficient manner possible” — perhaps by holding a joint hearing, or splitting up the witness list. House Intelligence invited Yates, Clapper and Brennan to testify publicly after May 2, when FBI Director James B. Comey and NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers are scheduled to give the panel a closed-door briefing.
But Graham said Wednesday that any such negotiations were “news to me” and that his committee’s process is “moving forward.” As for the jurisdictional concern, he noted that he had received a go-ahead from Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-N.C.) to invite Clapper, which was permission enough.
Having Yates, Clapper and Brennan speak publicly to House Intelligence is symbolically important to establishing Conaway as in charge after Nunes, whose tenure continued to sour when he canceled a public hearing at which the trio was scheduled to testify. Reinviting them was one the first moves Conaway made.
Conaway, who was once on the shortlist to become House Intelligence chairman instead of Nunes, has built a reputation as the GOP’s cleanup guy when the party needs to put its house in order.
You can read the rest at the Washington Post.