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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) won’t release transcripts from key witnesses in the Russia investigation even though his committee voted unanimously in 2018 to release them.
The Washington Examiner (my former employer) reported exclusively on Friday that Schiff is in possession of declassified transcripts but has yet to release them. The outlet reported that the declassification process, performed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, was supposed to take a few weeks or months. That was almost two years ago, however, and the transcripts have not been released. Many blame Schiff.
“Adam Schiff is thwarting the will of the House Intelligence Committee as expressed in the bipartisan vote in September 2018 to make these transcripts public,” one senior intelligence official told the Examiner. “He has appointed himself arbiter of what the public should see and has refused to allow the White House to review its own equities, making declassification of 10 of the transcripts impossible. It’s difficult to imagine any motive other than Schiff is still trying to control the narrative on Russia collusion.”
As the Examiner’s Jerry Dunleavy reported, 43 out of 53 transcripts have been declassified and returned to Schiff more than six months ago, but the Intel chairman has not made them public. Last fall, he promised to do just that. Here’s the issue, according to the Examiner:
A sticking point with the remaining 10 transcripts is the desire by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to allow the White House to review them as part of the declassification process.
In March 2019, under then-Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, ODNI staffers briefed the House Intelligence Committee that some of the interviews implicated “White House equities” and that the top spy office “looked for mention of interactions or communications with current or former [White House] and [National Security Council] officials either during transition or after descriptions of policies or direction established within the [White House] and [NSC]” as part of the declassification process, according to a letter Schiff sent to the ODNI obtained by the Washington Examiner. The ODNI said some of the witness testimony “could be privileged” and that a determination like that “can only be made by” the White House.
Schiff rejected the request from Coats a week later.
“Under no circumstances shall ODNI, or any other element of the Intelligence Community, share any HPSCI transcripts with the White House, President Trump, or any persons associated with the White House or the President,” Schiff wrote in his rejection letter. “Such transcripts remain the sole property of HPSCI, and were transmitted to ODNI for the limited purpose of enabling a classification review by IC elements and the Department of Justice.”
The Examiner reported that “at least two of the 10 disputed transcripts do not contain classified information and that Schiff could release them, along with the 43 other declassified transcripts.”
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the ranking member on the House Intel committee, told the Examiner that Schiff should release the transcripts that have already been declassified.
“HPSCI Democrats opposed every Republican document request and subpoena that helped to expose malfeasance in the FBI’s Russia collusion probe. And now, by refusing to publish the witness transcripts or the transcript of the committee’s briefing with former [intelligence community Inspector General] Michael Atkinson, the Democrats are blatantly continuing to hide documents that expose their own mistruths,” Nunes said. “There is no reason for keeping these documents secret except that they want to hide what’s in them.”
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