Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) canceled an open hearing on the ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the presidential election that was expected to occur Tuesday. On Wednesday of this week, he bypassed the committee and ran straight to Trump in a “dead of night excursion” with new surveillance findings, permanently damaging the reputation of the committee.
As James Stahl reported, Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat, lambasted Nunes for deciding to be a surrogate for Trump in an investigation looking into Trump’s possible collusion with Vladimir Putin and Russia. Schiff said Nunes’s actions underscored the importance of establishing an independent commission, and that Trump’s claims about Obama wiretapping Trump Tower remained baseless. Schiff said he has “grave doubts” about the credibility of the investigation he is taking part in.
Today, Adam Schiff tweeted that the Chairman’s cancellation of the open hearing with James Clapper, Former United States Director of National Intelligence, CIA Director John Brennan, and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates (who was fired by Trump for refusing to support the Muslim Ban.) was an “attempt to choke off public information.”
BREAKING: Chairman just cancelled open Intelligence Committee hearing with Clapper, Brennan and Yates in attempt to choke off public info.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) March 24, 2017
“We don’t welcome cutting off public access to information,” Schiff (D-Calif.) told reporters
The Hill reports that Nunes said the hearing was canceled ” to make room for a closed-door briefing with FBI Director James Comey and NSA head Michael Rogers — not because Monday’s open hearing with those officials was potentially politically damaging for Republicans.”
Schiff told reporters he welcomed any closed sessions with Comey and Rogers, as their previous testimony was already aired to the public. He strongly objected to the cancellation with the new witnesses and urged the majority to reconsider. The witnesses are still available and willing to testify, so why should the hearing not take place?
“Of course, that was not, in our view, in the public interest, and we resisted that,” said Schiff.
“We welcome, at any time, bringing in the former Directors back in closed session. We don’t welcome cutting off the public access to information when we have witnesses, as these three very important witnesses, who are willing and scheduled to testify in open session,” remarked Schiff.
When asked by a reporter why Nunes would dodge the hearing, Schiff replied that “I think that there must have been a very strong pushback from the White House about the nature of Monday’s hearing. It’s hard for me to come to any other conclusion about why an agreed-upon hearing would be suddenly canceled.”
Schiff left it to the Speaker to decide if Nunes should be removed from the Committee, though the credibility of Congress to conduct a non-partisan investigation is certainly in serious doubt at this point. Congresswoman Jackie Speier called Nunes’s cancellation of the public hearing an “obstruction of justice,” while Congressman John McCain said that “Congress has no credibility” to conduct the investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia.
Schiff said a profound takeaway of the last few days has been the need for an independent investigation, and said he is “deeply discouraged” by events this week.
Meanwhile, Democratic Congressman Ted W. Lieu has said, “The bombshell revelation that U.S. officials have information that suggests Trump associates may have colluded with the Russians means we must pause the entire Trump agenda. We may have an illegitimate President of the United States currently occupying the White House.”
See the full press conference with Adam Schiff below: