Lawmakers are trekking to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., to review classified evidence on Russia’s involvement in the presidential election. The House has scheduled its first public hearing on the issue. And the Senate is preparing to interview witnesses.
The congressional investigations into ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian officials are in full swing.
For months, the leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees said their investigations into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election were in their “initial” stages. On Tuesday, it became clear that the probes had moved into a new phase.
The CIA is now providing raw intelligence documents to committee members, according to multiple senators. Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) visited CIA headquarters on Monday to view the documents underlying the intelligence community’s unclassified assessment that Russia sought to sway the election in favor of Trump.
At Langley, Cornyn said Tuesday, he viewed “four large binders full of classified information that’s been made available to the committee to conduct” its wide-ranging investigation.
House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said members of his panel had also made visits to CIA headquarters and that there will be “more trips out there.” He said he was close to reaching an agreement with the intelligence community on whether evidence would be turned over to Congress or continue to be housed within the agencies.
Nunes also said Tuesday that his panel’s first public hearing on the issue would be held March 20 and that former members of the Obama administration had been asked to testify — including former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who was fired by Trump in January after refusing to defend his travel ban executive order in court.
The Senate Intelligence Committee, meanwhile, is expected to begin questioning witnesses behind closed doors “in the coming days and weeks,” according to a congressional source who spoke on the condition of anonymity. These formal interviews are expected to take place on Capitol Hill, the source said, and will likely be with officials from the agencies that contributed to the assessment that concluded Moscow was trying to aid Trump in November — the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Agency.
The panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner, said he planned to travel to Langley on Wednesday to view the raw intelligence documents. Warner emphasized that the documents were “not the extent of the information we’ll need” to conduct the Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation, which will include looking into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
The Virginia senator said he and Burr were in discussions about which people should be interviewed as part of the probe. He declined to say whether the committee would seek testimony from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a top Trump backer, who did not disclose two meetings he had with Russia’s ambassador last year during his January confirmation hearing.
The Associated Press reported Monday that the Intelligence Committee had reached out to former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page and that Page had responded to the panel that he would “provide any information” that might be needed.
Warner also indicated Tuesday he was happy with the cooperation the Intelligence Committee has gotten so far from the FBI. The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, has accused the FBI of withholding information from his panel.
“I have regular conversations with [FBI] Director [James] Comey,” Warner said Tuesday. “I am confident that we’re going to get all the information we need to get to the bottom of this in a way that we can let the American people know what happened or didn’t happen.”
Nunes also suggested Tuesday the intelligence community might not have shared information about potential counterintelligence investigations with top lawmakers — called the Gang of Eight — who are supposed to be briefed on such matters.
The congressman noted that multiple press reports have indicated that people associated with the Trump campaign were being investigated for potential ties to Russia, but that Congress was not made aware of any such investigations.
“If Trump or any other political campaign, anybody associated with Trump, was under some kind of investigation, that clearly should have risen to the Gang of Eight level,” Nunes said. “Clearly we have some questions about whether or not last year we were read into everything that we should have been read into.”
Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.
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