It’s been nearly two years since House Intelligence Committee lawmakers voted to declassify and release witness transcripts from their investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election … and here we are. Nothing.
Why the delay? Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and several senior officials say House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) is the reason the transcripts have not yet been released, according to an exclusive report from the Washington Examiner.
The Examiner spoke with one senior intelligence official who said, “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. 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.”
Where are the transcripts?
After concluding its investigation, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence — then chaired by Nunes — voted in September 2018 to publicly release dozens of declassified transcripts of witness testimony from the probe.
In all, there were 53 witness testimony transcripts that were sent from the committee to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) at that time with a request that they be reviewed and declassified so that they could be released to the public — a process that the Examiner says was estimated to only take a few weeks or months, at most.
Of those 53 transcripts, 43 have been declassified, cleared for public release, and have reportedly been in Schiff’s possession for at least the past six months. The remaining 10 transcripts, two of which were deemed to be completely unclassified, are stalled after Schiff refused a request by the ODNI to allow the White House to review them, given that they potentially contained sensitive White House communications.
Nevertheless, those ten transcripts aside, the other 43 could have been released at any time. Schiff even promised in September 2019 that he would release them soon — yet, they still remain unreleased to this day.
Nunes: “They want to hide what’s in them”
Ranking committee member Devin Nunes (R-CA), who led the initial vote in 2018 to release the transcripts, told the Examiner that his counterpart needs to release them now, as promised last year, as there is no legitimate reason for Schiff’s continued delay.
“HPSCI Democrats opposed every Republican document request and subpoena that helped to expose malfeasance in the FBI’s Russia collusion probe,” Nunes said. “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.”
“There is no reason for keeping these documents secret except that they want to hide what’s in them,” Nunes added. A senior White House official had similar comments for the Examiner.
There is no excuse for Adam Schiff personally controlling the release of information that the Intelligence Committee voted 19 months ago to release and that the intelligence community has declassified. If [Schiff] was interested in transparency, as he has claimed, he would make all of these transcripts public.
What exactly is Schiff hiding?
Atkinson, readers may remember, was the inspector general who forwarded to Schiff the “whistleblower” complaint regarding President Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukraine that sparked the failed impeachment effort. The contents of Atkinson’s testimony behind closed doors to the committee would likely make for some rather revealing reading.
The rest of the declassified transcripts, which contain the testimony of a number of former Obama administration officials and Trump associates, should also prove to be quite interesting. It seems likely they might substantially undercut what’s left of Schiff’s ridiculous Russian collusion narrative — hence, his apparent reluctance to release them.