House panel votes to send Russia transcripts to Mueller
Washington – In the panel’s first act since Democrats took the majority, the House intelligence committee voted Wednesday to send more than 50 interview transcripts from its now-closed Russia investigation to special counsel Robert Mueller.
Two Republican members of the panel, Republican Reps. Michael Conaway of Texas and Chris Stewart of Utah, confirmed the outcome of the vote, which took place behind closed doors.
The vote came the morning after Trump criticized “ridiculous partisan investigations” in his State of the Union speech.
The Intelligence panel’s new chairman, California Rep. Adam Schiff, had long said that sending Mueller the transcripts from the probe into Russian election interference would be one of his first actions. Two associates of President Donald Trump have already been charged with lying to the committee, and Schiff has said Mueller should consider whether additional perjury charges are warranted as part of the special counsel’s investigation.
Schiff has indicated that he will re-open parts of the committee probe that Republicans closed last March, concluding there was no evidence of conspiracy or collusion between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign. Democrats strongly objected at the time, saying that the Republicans prematurely closed the investigation.
Trump’s former fixer and personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and a longtime adviser, Roger Stone, have been charged with lying to the panel. Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying to the House and Senate intelligence committees in a statement about his role in a Trump business proposal in Moscow, acknowledging that he misled lawmakers by saying he had abandoned the project in January 2016 when he actually continued pursuing it for months after that.
Cohen, who is scheduled to begin serving a three-year prison sentence in March, was scheduled to return to the House panel on Friday for another closed-door interview, this time with Democrats leading the questioning. But Schiff said Wednesday morning that the interview had been postponed to Feb. 28 “in the interests of the investigation.”
Schiff did not say whether he was referring to Mueller’s investigation or his own. Schiff spokesman Patrick Boland declined to elaborate..
Hours after the delay, a document was filed under seal in Cohen’s criminal case brought by Mueller’s office. The court’s docket doesn’t contain any details about the nature of the document. Special counsel spokesman Peter Carr declined comment, as did Lanny Davis, an attorney for Cohen.
Since he testified in 2017, Cohen has turned on the president, cooperating with Mueller’s probe and a separate investigation in New York. He was charged with crimes that included arranging the payment of hush money to conceal his boss’ alleged sexual affairs and told a judge that he agreed to cover up Trump’s “dirty deeds” out of “blind loyalty.”
Stone pleaded not guilty to charges last month that he lied to the House panel about his discussions during the 2016 election about WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group that released thousands of emails stolen from Democrats. Stone is also charged with obstructing the House probe by encouraging one of his associates, New York radio host Randy Credico, to refuse to testify before the House panel in an effort to conceal Stone’s false statements.
Mueller requested Stone’s interview transcript last year and the panel voted to release it in December, ahead of the January charges. Democrats had previously pushed the GOP-led committee to release all of the transcripts to Mueller, but Republicans said Mueller hadn’t requested them. The committee did vote to release most of the transcripts to the public, but they are still being reviewed by the intelligence community for classified information.
It is unclear if Mueller has since requested any other transcripts, or if he has already seen any of them. It is possible that Mueller could have gained access to the documents through the intelligence agencies that are reviewing them.
Republicans on the panel issued a joint statement just before the meeting saying that the intelligence agencies’ ongoing review is “an unacceptable delay” and Democrats should vote to publish all of the unclassified transcripts immediately. It was not immediately clear if Democrats would be willing to do that.
Among the transcripts that would be released would be interviews with Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.; his son-in-law, Jared Kushner; his longtime spokeswoman, Hope Hicks; and his former bodyguard Keith Schiller. There are dozens of other transcripts of interviews with former Obama administration officials and Trump associates.
Associated Press writer Chad Day contributed to this report.