Hey Adam….the transcripts are ready….are you? Release the documents.
EXCLUSIVE — DNI TO SCHIFF: THE TRANSCRIPTS ARE READY TO RELEASE. A big development in the fight over 53 secret interviews the House Intelligence Committee conducted during its Trump-Russia investigation. Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell has sent a letter to chairman Adam Schiff notifying him that transcripts of all 53 interviews, over 6,000 pages in all, have been cleared for public release. “All of the transcripts, with our required redactions, can be released to the public without any concerns of disclosing classified material,” Grenell wrote to Schiff in a letter dated May 4.
The Intel Committee did the first probe into Russia’s 2016 campaign interference and allegations of Trump-Russia collusion. Even today, its findings make up most of what we know about the affair. As part of that investigation — it was run by then-majority Republicans — the committee interviewed some key witnesses in the Trump-Russia matter: Donald Trump Jr., Steve Bannon, Andrew McCabe, Sally Yates, Michael Cohen, Hope Hicks, and many more.
The interviews were conducted in secret. But by September 2018, with the committee’s report long finished and made public, the Republicans who still controlled the committee decided the interview transcripts should be released to the public. In a rare moment of comity, Democrats agreed, and on September 26, 2018, the committee voted unanimously to release the transcripts. But there was a catch: The documents would have to first be checked for classified information by the Intelligence Community. So off they went to the IC — never to be seen again.
Now, in May 2020, they’re still secret. Two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal editorial board reported that the IC had finished its review of 43 of the transcripts, but Schiff was refusing to release them. The paper said Schiff was also preventing declassification of the remaining ten transcripts.
In the letter, Grenell revealed that the 43 transcripts have been finished since June 2019. Schiff has been sitting on them all that time. Grenell said the final ten have just been finished as well. “I urge you to honor your previous public statements, and your committee’s unanimous vote on this matter, to release all 53 cleared transcripts to Members of Congress and the American public as soon as possible,” Grenell said. Just in case Schiff is still not interested, Grenell added, “I am also willing to release the transcripts directly from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, as to ensure we comply with the unanimous and bipartisan vote to release the transcripts.”
One more thing. In March 2019 — that was when Democrats were newly in charge of the House and considering impeaching President Trump over the Russia matter — Schiff requested that the DNI “under no circumstances…share House Intelligence Committee transcripts with the White House, President Trump, or any persons associated with the White House or President.” Some Republicans viewed that as a dubious request, since some of the witnesses came from the White House. Nevertheless, Grenell complied. “Pursuant to your guidance, these transcripts have not been shared with the White House,” he wrote to Schiff.
The next move is up to Schiff. The chairman has shown no hesitation to keep secrets even when they involve non-classified information of great national interest. For example, Schiff is still concealing the committee’s impeachment inquiry interview with Michael Atkinson, at the time the Intelligence Community Inspector General, in the Ukraine matter. As for the Trump-Russia interviews, Republicans remember when Schiff claimed he had “direct evidence” of collusion — a charge special counsel Robert Mueller was never able to establish. Some GOP lawmakers believe the transcripts will help show that Schiff was making it up all along. It’s time for the public to learn that, too.
When Schiff continues to lie —> update: Schiff is moving to release them but not without trying to place blame.
Schiff accused the White House of “hijacking” the process during an interview with Politico in September. The outlet reported at the time that “Schiff still intends to release the bulk of the Russia transcripts in the near future.” Nearly a year later, he had not done so.
“All of the transcripts, with required redactions can be released to the public without any concerns of disclosing classified material,” Grenell’s letter said. “In the interests of transparency and accountability, I urge you to honor your previous public statements, and your Committee’s unanimous vote on this matter, to release all 53 cleared transcripts to all Members of Congress and the American public as soon as possible.”
The acting spy chief added: “I am also willing to release the transcripts directly from the ODNI, as to ensure we comply with the unanimous and bipartisan vote to release the transcripts.”
The declassification process by the ODNI was expected to take just a few weeks or months. Nearly two years later, GOP lawmakers and Trump administration officials blamed Schiff for the delay.
“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 Washington Examiner late last month. “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.”
Schiff’s spokesperson said Wednesday, “We are now reviewing the proposed redactions from ODNI based on classification, law enforcement sensitivity, or items ODNI requests be for official-use only.” The official also cast doubt on the trustworthiness of the redactions, claiming that, “given the overtly political role now played by the Acting DNI, including the leak of his letter, this committee and the public can have little confidence that his determinations are made on the merits.”
The spokesperson added: “Our review of ODNI’s newly proposed redactions will be as expeditious as possible given the constraints of the pandemic, and we look forward to releasing these transcripts, which relate to misconduct by the Trump campaign and the president himself.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page report, released in April 2019, said his investigation found the Russians had interfered in the 2016 election in a “sweeping and systematic fashion” but that it “did not establish” any criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Led by Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, 27 GOP lawmakers said in a Tuesday letter that the delay was Schiff’s fault.
“We understand now that Chairman Schiff is blocking the release of these transcripts. This news, if accurate, is disturbing — especially in light of Chairman Schiff’s cries in 2019 for transparency regarding allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia,” the congressmen said.
The 10 transcripts that Schiff successfully blocked the White House from viewing are from interviews of Trump son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, former chief executive for the Trump campaign Steve Bannon, former Obama deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, former White House deputy assistant Keith Schiller, and Mary McCord, a former assistant attorney general for national security who was involved in the FBI’s Russia investigation.
Among the 43 other witness interviews was testimony by former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Donald Trump Jr., White House adviser Hope Hicks, longtime Trump friend and recently convicted “fixer” Roger Stone, former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Perkins Coie lawyers Michael Sussman, a former DOJ lawyer who passed along alleged details about Russian interference to former FBI general counsel James Baker, and Marc Elias, the chairman who was the Clinton campaign’s general counsel and who hired Fusion GPS on behalf of the campaign, were also among them.