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GOP pushes to release private interviews done during Russia election-meddling probe

Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after a closed-door meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about Russian meddling in the election at the Capitol in Washington.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after a closed-door meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about Russian meddling in the election at the Capitol in Washington. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

The House intelligence committee chairman said Sunday he plans to release the transcripts of dozens of private interviews conducted during its investigation into Russian election-meddling and would push the director of national intelligence to declassify others.

“I think full transparency is in order here, so I expect to make those (transcripts) available from our committee to the American public here in the next few weeks,” said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., months after the GOP colleague who led the investigation said such a release could have a “chilling impact” on testimony in future inquiries.

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He said the committee interviewed nearly 70 people, and he estimated that about 70 per cent to 80 per cent of those interviews are not classified. “Those need to be published, and they need to be published, I think, before the election,” which is Nov. 6, Nunes told Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”

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Nunes said he hoped it would take Dan Coats, the national intelligence director, only “a matter of days” to act once Nunes made his request about the classified depositions, and “they don’t do their normal foot-dragging where they slow roll and we don’t get these before the election.”

Making the transcripts available can only be done by committee vote. Committee Democrats have said they want the transcripts made public.

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The committee already has released a handful of transcripts, but only in cases where the witness insisted on a public disclosure. GOP Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, who led the investigation, said in March, when the committee completed a draft of its final report that found no co-ordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, that he decided against releasing the whole transcripts for fear it could hinder future probes.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the highest ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, called upon Nunes to schedule a meeting “immediately” so members could vote on releasing the transcripts. The Schiff has favoured complete disclosure so the public could make its own judgment about the witnesses.

“The American people deserve to see what we uncovered, the questions witnesses refused to answer,” Schiff said in a statement released Sunday.

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That is the approach Nunes is taking, saying he wanted Americans to “see the work that we did and they can see all the people that were interviewed by us and their answers to those questions.”

Nunes said “there’s so much that’s out there that’s misinformation or disinformation on this ‘Russia-gate’ fiasco that we need this information out before the election.”

That both Republicans and Democrats want the transcripts released underscores the partisan lens through which each side has viewed the investigation.

Republicans are likely to say that the content of the interviews proves there was no evidence of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia; Democrats probably would say they prove there was evidence.

The Senate intelligence committee is still conducting its own investigation and has interviewed far more witnesses than the shorter House probe. The chairman, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, has said he won’t release committee documents, so it is unclear whether any of those interviews will ever become public.

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