Democratic push to investigate Russia stymied by partisan acrimony - CNNPolitics

(CNN)Democrats on the Hoe Intelligence Committee thought they had scored a coup in their efforts to continue investigating Rsian interference in the 2016 election: Trump aide John Mashburn had agreed to answer their questions.

But jt minutes before he was slated to speak to lawmakers last week, the Democrats were told he had canceled — and wouldn’t appear becae Reans were not attending, according to three sources familiar with the interview.
Democrats charged that Reans helped kill the interview after they learned Mashburn had agreed to attend, but Mashburn acced Democratic staffers in a statement to CNN of falsely claiming the interview would be bipartisan when they didn’t tell Reans about the meeting until an hour before it was scheduled to occur.
    The scuttled Mashburn interview is one of a number cases where the partisan acrimony on the Hoe Intelligence Committee has hampered the Democrats’ efforts to continue the Rsia investigation that the panel’s Reans ended in March. Since then, Reans have erected several hurdles making it harder for Democrats to continue their own investigation into connections between Trump campaign officials and Rsians after the GOP ended the committee’s probe in March, Democratic lawmakers and aides said. The moves, in turn, have prompted Democrats to take their own steps to try to counter the Reans.
    Given the intense partisanship in the Hoe, it’s not unual for any majority in either party to squelch efforts by the minority party to act unilaterally. But Democrats say Hoe Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, a Rean from , has taken it to a whole new level.
    Democrats say Reans have been playing petty preventing them from carrying out basic tasks, including spending any money to cover the costs of flying witnesses to Washington. They say the GOP has prevented the Democrats from ing the committee spaces for interviews.
    Democrats contend that the GOP has even taken the step of denying the e of free-of-charge Hoe transcription services. Instead, they have had to rely on Hoe Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office to pay for outside transcription services and to e her offices to conduct interviews — as they did when the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, met with the panel in April and for Wednesday’s interview with Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos.
    But beyond the small-bore disputes, there is one serio matter at hand, Democrats say: They want to share the transcripts of their witness interviews with special counsel Robert Mueller over concerns that some witnesses may have been untruthful, but Nunes, they say, isn’t cooperating.
    “They certainly do what they can to make it dficult for ,” Rep. Adam Schf, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said of Reans, accing them of “affirmatively” working to urge witnesses not to cooperate with them. “They not only don’t want to hear what the Trump campaign knew about Rsian possession of the stolen emails, but they don’t want to know either.”

    Reans refe to participate

    The dispute highlights just how toxic the House Intelligence Committee has become. For the past year, it has devolved into a partisan kne-fight, ultimately culminating in the end of an investigation that led Republicans to conclude there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016.
    In that probe, Democrats acced Nunes of sitting on scores of subpoena requests and demands to interview a bevy of witnesses, while the GOP said Schf and his colleagues were on a witch-hunt with the sole goal of undermining the .
    Reans told CNN they now see no reason why they should participate in or help with the Democratic investigation that they believe is a fruitless exercise and a continuation of the partisan battle that engulfed the committee for the past 18 months.
    “There’s a dference between a real investigation and a fake investigation fueled by a desire for people to get on television,” said Rep. Mike Turner, an Ohio Rean, who sits on the panel.
    “I think it’s extraordinarily unlikely they’re going to learn anything we don’t already know. But knock yourself out,” said Rep. Chris Stewart, a Utah Rean, also a committee member. “And you do, I’ll recognize that and I’ll thank them for it.”
    And Rep. Mike Conaway, the Texas Rean who led the committee’s Rsia investigation after Nunes last year temporarily stepped aside from running the probe, is backing the chairman now.
    “It’s not their money. It’s the committee’s money,” Conaway said. “Devin runs that process, and I’m backing Devin’s decisions.”

    Midterms looming

    The battle over committee resources is another indication of the stakes of the battle for the Hoe in the midterms. Should Democrats retake the Hoe in November, they will gain control of the committees — and the unilateral subpoena power that comes with them in the Hoe — to make things dficult for Trump’s campaign and the .
    They could opt to take up a similar playbook that Nunes has ed to probe the FBI and Jtice Department’s handling of the start of the Rsia investigation and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant on former Trump aide Carter Page, with numero subpoenas and requests for documents that have been backed up with threats of contempt and even impeachment.
    In an interview on a podcast hosted by Wisconsin Rean Rep. Sean Duffy, Nunes accused the FBI and the Justice Department of trying to slow-walk their cooperation with the Rean probes in the hopes that Democrats win in November. “They are putting all their chips in on that the Reans will lose the Hoe and all of these investigations will shut down,” Nunes said.
    Nunes declined to answer CNN’s questions about Schf’s scheduled interviews and the Democratic complaints. Nunes spokesman Jack Langer said in a statement: “It’s a letdown to see that the Democrats have run out of aming collion conspiracy theories to leak to CNN and have replaced them with a litany of petty administrative complaints.”

    Dems blocked from sharing transcripts with Mueller

    Schf and the Democrats were also frtrated in their efforts to interview Mangiante Papadopoulos, the we of former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.
    Since George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last year about lying about his Rsia-related contacts, Mangiante Papadopoulos has spoken out on behalf of her husband, and she said Wednesday that her hband would be willing to talk to the Hoe Intelligence Committee, too.
    But Democratic members and staff struggled to find a way to pay for Mangiante Papadopoulos to fly to Washington from Chicago for the interview, weighing whether they could e member accounts to do so.
    Democratic push to investigate Russia stymied by partisan acrimony - CNNPolitics
    Ultimately, she told CNN she paid her own way to do the interview, which occurred Wednesday in Pelosi’s personal office.
    “They won’t even agree to pay for any investigation that is not of the investigators themselves,” Schf said, referring to Nunes’ efforts to investigate how the Trump-Rsia probe was handled in 2016. “That’s the only thing they’re willing to investigate.”
    Schf has requested additional interviews, such as embattled FBI agent Peter Strzok, although they mt come voluntarily since Democrats lack subpoena power.
    In the case of Mashburn, Democratic sources say he was told ahead of time that Reans were invited. “Within minutes” of inviting Reans to attend last Wednesday, Schf said, Mashburn abruptly canceled his appearance.
    But Mashburn had a dferent accounting of the negotiations ahead of his scheduled testimony.
    “I agreed to answer questions from bipartisan Hoe staff in any officially authorized meeting or interview as I have already done for two Senate committees,” he told CNN. “Rep. Schf’s staff actually gave less than 60 minutes notice to committee Reans regarding both the existence of and the opportunity to attend this unofficial, unauthorized meeting of Democrat only members. This was not what had been agreed to from the beginning between the respective attorneys, so we declined to appear.”
    Schf spokesman Patrick Boland said in a statement that Democratic staff “conveyed to Mr. Mashburn’s lawyer that committee Reans were unlikely to attend becae they had prematurely shut down their investigation.”
    “Minutes after we invited the majority to participate in the interview, they subsequently called Mashburn’s counsel to encourage him not to testy — now their practice in our ongoing investigation — becae they have been repeatedly embarrassed by new revelations that have come from and about witnesses they refed to bring in, like Maria Butina,” Boland said.
    Democrats say they made a request for an interview with Butina, the Rsian national acced by federal authorities of being a covert agent, but she did not respond to their request.
    Schf has contended that some of the witnesses who testied during the GOP-led Rsia probe may have lied, which is a crime, and he wants Mueller to know about it. But without Nunes’ help, Schf said, Democrats are exploring other ways to provide Mueller with the unilaterally.
    “We’re trying determine whether evidence of a crime is an exception to the executive session rules,” Schf said. “We’re looking at what legal recourse there may be the committee takes evidence of a potential crime, but we don’t have a final legal judgment on that yet.”

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