House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee is open to probe of Flynn

Un­til now, Repub­li­cans seemed more con­cerned over leaks to news me­dia

The Washington Post - - POWERPOST - BY KAROUN DEMIRJIAN

The House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee is po­ten­tially ex­pand­ing the scope of its probe into Rus­sian ac­tiv­i­ties in the U.S. elec­tions to in­clude al­le­ga­tions that ousted na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn spoke about sanc­tions with a Rus­sian of­fi­cial late last year.

The state­ment from a spokesman for Chair­man Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) sug­gests that the House is now open to in­ves­ti­gat­ing the full scope of the al­le­ga­tions swirling around the Trump team and Rus­sia rather than fo­cused squarely on how such charges ended up in the news me­dia in re­cent weeks.

“The com­mit­tee is not pre­emp­tively ex­clud­ing any top­ics or in­di­vid­u­als from our in­quiry, and we ex­pect that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion will lead us to in­ter­view cur­rent and for­mer U.S. of­fi­cials,” Nunes spokesman Jack Langer said in a state­ment late Thurs­day.

The state­ment echoes com­ments ear­lier in the day from the com­mit­tee’s rank­ing Demo­crat, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.).

Lead­ers on the com­mit­tee, Schiff said, agreed only in the last 24 hours “to in­ves­ti­gate any rel­e­vant al­le­ga­tions, in­clud­ing those in­volv­ing Michael Flynn.”

“I think we are on the same page with what the Se­nate is in­ter­ested in,” he said.

House Democrats are con­cerned that their Repub­li­can col­leagues are not fol­low­ing the bi­par­ti­san — at least for now — model be­ing set by their Se­nate coun­ter­parts in vow­ing to fully and ag­gres­sively in­ves­ti­gate both the idea that Rus­sia sought to in­ter­fere in the elec­tion, and more re­cent re­ports that Flynn dis­cussed sanc­tions with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador to the United States in De­cem­ber, be­fore Trump was in­au­gu­rated. An­other news re­port said that Trump cam­paign of­fi­cials were in con­tact with Rus­sian of­fi­cials dur­ing the cam­paign.

Both the House and Se­nate in­tel­li­gence pan­els launched probes into Rus­sian ac­tiv­i­ties in the elec­tion at the end of Jan­uary.

This week, as more in­for­ma­tion emerged, House lead­ers ap­peared more con­cerned about get­ting to the bot­tom of who is leak­ing key in­for­ma­tion to the news me­dia. Pres­i­dent Trump also com­plained about the leaks at a Thurs­day news con­fer­ence.

“There should be an in­ves­ti­ga­tion as to the leaks of in­for­ma­tion leav­ing — wher­ever they’re com­ing from,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thurs­day. “If it’s clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion, that is crim­i­nal and there should be a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion of th­ese leaks.”

That ap­proach had some House Democrats wor­ried.

“It makes us look bad,” said Rep. Eli­jah E. Cum­mings (Md.), the rank­ing Demo­crat on the House Over­sight Com­mit­tee.

Even if House Repub­li­cans have shifted the scope of their probe, their rhetoric re­mains di­rected at those re­spon­si­ble for the leaks.

As Rep. Lou Bar­letta (R-Pa.), a mem­ber of the House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee and a Trump sup­porter, put it, the leaks are a “big­ger story than the in­ci­dent with what Gen­eral Flynn did.”

On Wed­nes­day night, House Over­sight Com­mit­tee Chair­man Jason Chaf­fetz (R-Utah) and House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Bob Good­latte (R-Va.) sent a joint let­ter to the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s in­spec­tor gen­eral, urg­ing him to dig into whether leaked, clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion had been “mis­han­dled.” That let­ter was re­leased at nearly the same time as one from Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Charles E. Grass­ley (R-Iowa) and the com­mit­tee’s rank­ing Demo­crat, Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein (Calif.), to FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey de­mand­ing copies of tran­scripts of Flynn’s in­ter­cepted calls with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador, as well as a com­mit­tee brief­ing later this month on the events that led to Flynn’s res­ig­na­tion.

On Thurs­day, Fe­in­stein cred­ited Grass­ley with com­ing up with the idea, telling re­porters: “We work very well to­gether.”

Fe­in­stein, who is also on the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, and Sen. Mark R. Warner ( Va.), the panel’s rank­ing Demo­crat, of­fered even more vo­cal praise for Chair­man Richard Burr (R-N.C.), ap­plaud­ing him for mov­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion along “very ag­gres­sively” and pro­fess­ing to have “faith” in his ef­forts.

Demo­cratic mem­bers of the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee have taken note of the rel­a­tive har­mony be­tween the Se­nate lead­ers and the very dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion in which they find them­selves.

At this point, House Democrats are se­verely lim­ited in what they are able to do to hus­tle the in­ves­ti­ga­tions along.

Lead Democrats on com­mit­tees with ju­ris­dic­tion over the in­ves­ti­ga­tions have al­most no power to is­sue sub­poe­nas to force mem­bers of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to tes­tify and few pro­ce­dural op­tions to get their de­mands ac­knowl­edged.

What they do have in their arse­nal, they have al­ready de­ployed. Last week, Rep. Jer­rold Nadler (D-N.Y.) filed a “res­o­lu­tion of in­quiry” ask­ing the Jus­tice Depart­ment for copies of all doc­u­ments and records per­tain­ing to a “crim­i­nal or coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence in­ves­ti­ga­tion” into Trump. Un­der House rules, the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee is ob­li­gated to at least de­bate the res­o­lu­tion within 14 leg­isla­tive days.

“That was done be­cause we were get­ting no re­sponse from the Repub­li­cans,” Nadler said Thurs­day. “That’s one way of mak­ing them at least re­spond.”

Democrats have also been send­ing a flurry of let­ters to their GOP col­leagues and var­i­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials.

Nadler said Democrats on the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee re­sponded to Chaf­fetz and Good­latte’s let­ter with one of their own, “say­ing ‘while you’re look­ing at the leaks, take a look at every­thing else.’ ”

On Thurs­day, Schiff and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi (DCalif.) also sent a let­ter to the act­ing di­rec­tor of na­tional in­tel­li­gence, Michael Dempsey, de­mand­ing a “com­pre­hen­sive in­tel­li­gence brief­ing” on Flynn’s con­tacts with Rus­sian of­fi­cials, as well as ac­cess to the tran­scripts of those con­ver­sa­tions.

“It’s a bi­par­ti­san re­quest in the Se­nate, but we could not get agree­ment on that,” Schiff said.

On Thurs­day, Chaf­fetz joined Cum­mings in send­ing a let­ter to the speak­ers bu­reau Lead­ing Au­thor­i­ties Inc. ask­ing for doc­u­ments to de­ter­mine how much Flynn had been paid to at­tend a 2015 gala hosted by Krem­lin­backed RT tele­vi­sion net­work.

“Chaf­fetz did join us in a let­ter on that,” Cum­mings noted Thurs­day. “On the more com­plex things, we’re not get­ting his co­op­er­a­tion so far. But he may change.”

Cum­mings also noted that Democrats had got­ten their first Repub­li­can — Rep. Wal­ter B. Jones (N.C.) — to sign onto a bill to es­tab­lish an in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate Rus­siare­lated al­le­ga­tions. “Hope­fully this will break open some­thing,” he said. “We don’t know.”

MICHAEL ROBIN­SON CHAVEZ/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Thurs­day: “There should be an in­ves­ti­ga­tion as to the leaks of in­for­ma­tion . . . wher­ever they’re com­ing from.”

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