As the House Intelligence Committee’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election winds down, top Democrats are preparing to drag out the investigation and may dispute the committee’s findings.
The House probe is one of four Russia probes, including Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation, launched in response to Russian hacking of Democratic emails. The four investigations have turned up zero evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia’s meddling in the election.
Connecticut Democratic Rep. Jim Himes, the number two Democrat on the House intel committee, made the media rounds on Tuesday to lay the groundwork to demand the investigation drag on further, even though the committee completed all scheduled interviews before Christmas.
In interviews with both the Washington Post and CNN, Himes suggested that Republicans would be accused of a cover-up if they didn’t grant dozens more interviews.
“It’s in both the Democrats’ and the Republicans’ interests to … write a report based on a common set of facts,” Himes told the Post. “It would be a tragedy if the report has a minority section that says, ‘Look, we wanted to talk to these two dozen witnesses and weren’t able to do so.”
“For nearly a year, the House review has been following the facts, and it continues to do so. The investigation will conclude when the Committee has reached a conclusion,” Paul Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong told The Daily Caller. “It’s clear by the endless political posturing by some House Democrats that they would like to see this investigation go on forever. Whether it concludes next month, next year, or in three years, they’ll say it’s too soon.”
“It is also the Committee’s responsibility to provide recommendations to Congress to ensure what took place last election never happens again. The only responsible outcome would be to get those Committee recommendations in time to implement them before the election coming just this year,” she added.
Committee members obtained roughly 300,000 documents and heard more than 164 hours of testimony over the course of the investigation, according to one source familiar with the probe, which has provided plenty of ammunition for politicized leaks. (RELATED: CNN Botches Major ‘Bombshell’ Alleging Contacts Between Don Jr. And WikiLeaks)
WATCH FOR MORE ON HOW CNN BLEW THE RUSSIA STORY:
Donald Trump Jr.’s lawyer accused Democrats on the House intel committee of leaking false information to CNN last month, leading CNN to falsely report that Trump Jr. had received advance access to hacked documents published by WikiLeaks. CNN refused to name the two sources who both gave the network the false information.
Three House Republicans, Utah Rep. Mia Love, Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe and New York Rep. Lee Zeldin, have demanded an investigation into the leaks from the intel committee.
“Significant evidence that serious leaks have occurred in relation to the [House intel] investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election must be immediately addressed,” the three Republicans wrote in a letter last month. They pointed to leaked information from Don Jr.’s testimony before the committee as proof that Democrats are leaking information to hurt the Trump administration.
The congressional Russia investigation has seen at least 97 leaks to the media, including both unclassified and classified information, according to one source with knowledge of the investigation.
Rep. Himes said Tuesday that committee Democrats want to obtain more information about Don Jr. before the investigation concludes.
“I think a lot of work remains to be done on who exactly knew what about Don Jr.’s efforts to get dirt and George Papadopoulos’ effort to get dirt on the Clinton campaign,” the Democratic congressman told CNN. “Did those efforts stop with those individuals or was it part of the larger effort within the campaign? I don’t think we know the answer to that yet.”