In consecutive press conferences on Friday, House Intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) and ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) took their fight over the investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties to the Russian government public once again.
In a Tweet Friday morning, Schiff said Nunes had cancelled a public hearing with former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA director John Brennan, and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates.
Schiff then said in a press conference that he and Nunes had agreed to have the hearing be public, and accused his Republican counterpart of “cutting off public access to information.”
“I think this is a serious mistake,” Schiff said.
Schiff theorized that Nunes had decided to cancel the hearings due to “strong pushback” from the White House. He also called for an independent commission to handle the investigation comparable to the one that investigated the 9/11 attacks.
The Democrat was also fiercely critical of Nunes for his assertion that some administration officials had their communications swept up through “incidental collection” by intelligence agencies. Nunes was heavily criticized for the disclosure, which he did not share in advance with Schiff or other Democrats on the committee. Nunes later apologized to Schiff for the dust-up.
Still, according to Schiff, no one else on the committee -- Republican or Democrat -- has seen the evidence that Nunes referred to. “All of us are essentially in the dark,” Schiff said.
Schiff also said Nunes’ decision to brief the White House on the matter was “wholly inappropriate” and casted “grave doubts into the ability to run a credible investigation and the integrity of that investigation.”
Earlier Friday, Nunes made news of his own at a press conference by announcing that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort would testify before the committee.
Nunes said Manafort had volunteered to be interviewed. Manafort was in charge of Mr. Trump’s campaign from April until August of last year. Mr. Trump, who was trailing far behind in polls at the time, accepted Manafort’s resignation after numerous stories surfaced of his involvement with a pro-Russian party in Ukraine.
The relationship between Mr. Trump, his associates, and the Russian government is currently the focus of an FBI counterintelligence investigation, and is also being investigated by the Senate and House intelligence committees.
It is not clear if Manafort’s interview with the committee will be conducted in public, although Schiff said it should be.
Mr. Trump had earlier claimed, without evidence, that Trump Tower had been wiretapped by the Obama administration. The president’s allies had pointed to Nunes’ claim as proof that the president was correct in his assertion, although Nunes said Friday that no wiretapping of Trump Tower had takes place.
Schiff, meanwhile, said that Nunes assertion, even if true, offered no validation of the president’s claim.