US House Speaker backs intelligence panel chair in Russia probe

Certainly, it seems to have enough to haul the whole matter into court to delay Yates' testimony.

Congressional investigators are looking into alleged links between Russians and Trump campaign operatives in the wake of reports that Russian hackers meddled in the election past year to work against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

After she was sacked, it was revealed that Yates had notified the White House that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had not properly explained his contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Mark Warner says that if the White House has nothing to hide about its relationship with Russian Federation, there should be no problem with government officials answering questions in public testimony. Not only that but the Russians' knowledge about what Flynn had said left him open to blackmail, the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned.

The Washington Post first reported that the White House aimed to block Yates from testifying, and NBC News later obtained the letters that formed the basis of the newspaper's story.

On March 23, Yates' attorney asked the Justice Department whether she could testify without constraints.

Spicer says the White House did not respond to the letter. Later, in a briefing with reporters, he was given a chance to clarify more broadly - so executive privilege would not be an issue for Yates?

Yates and other former intelligence officials had been asked to testify before the House Intelligence Committee this week, a hearing that was abruptly canceled by the panel's chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).

Nunes' independence, however, has been called into question by Schiff and some other members of Congress following the last big cliffhanger in this melodrama.

McCain, an Arizona conservative and critic of President Donald Trump, said Nunes must divulge the identity of the source to rule out political influence.

Nunes would not name the source of the information, nor would he disclose who invited him on the White House grounds for the meeting. Is he a White House surrogate or the head of an adversarial committee in a rival, independent branch charged with checking the president? (Democrats say Nunes has yet to share his evidence with them.) While Nunes denied that his source came from within the Trump administration, Democrats intimated that Nunes was carrying water for the president and called for an independent investigation.

The chairman did not tell the top Democrat on the committee about the meeting at the White House complex.

Schiff and a few key Republicans, including Arizona Sen.

Even as Washington was reeling from the latest twist in the Trump-Russia affair, a new scandal emerged.

"Dems want me to quit because I'm quite effective at getting to the truth", Nunes said.

"Details about USA persons associated with the incoming administration, details with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value, were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting". The panel has no public hearings on its calendar, but Schiff told NPR on Tuesday that Republican and Democratic staffers are continuing to review documents and assemble lists of potential witnesses.

Meanwhile, the next story arc is expected to get underway later this week when the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee step into the center ring.

The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee is asking whether an open congressional hearing on the Russian Federation probe was canceled because the White House did not want former acting Attorney General Sally Yates to testify and assert executive privilege. Nunes then apologized to Democrats, but the following day he canceled Tuesday's public hearing, saying he wanted to hear from Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers in private, prompting outrage from Democrats. If a woman sits down at your table and tells you she's a lawyer who likes to relax with a little poker, and introduces herself as Sally Yates, run like hell and don't stop until you get to the Arctic Circle.

Nunes, the California congressman, canceled the Russian Federation hearing on Friday. "She need not obtain separate consent from the department". We have no problem with her testifying, plain and simple.

But Spicer maintains that the reporting is completely inaccurate.

Yates in January warned the White House that Flynn could be vulnerable to blackmail after he made incorrect statements about his contacts with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Scott Schools, another Justice Department official, replied in a letter the following day, saying the conversations with the White House "are likely covered by the presidential communications privilege and possibly the deliberative process privilege".

President Donald Trump fired Yates after she told Justice Department lawyers not to defend Trump's first executive order restricting travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

But Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., a member of the committee, said Tuesday that Nunes should step down "in the interest of our integrity".

"If this was done the proper way, they could have brought it over, shared it with both parties of the committee", he said.

But Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, influential foreign policy hawks, joined Democrats in questioning Nunes' objectivity although they stopped short of calling on him to remove himself from the probe as Democrats have done.

The White House has said it has "no problem" with a former Department of Justice official testifying before a committee investigating possible links between Russian Federation and Donald Trump's campaign.

  • Joey Payne