The Republican and Democratic leaders on the Senate Intelligence Committee rejected a broad request from two Republican Senate leaders seeking access to the panel’s records to assist in their investigation into the Trump-Russia investigators.
Acting Chairman Marco Rubio of Florida and Vice Chairman Mark Warner of Virginia rejected a late August letter from Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who said that they “respect the authority” of the Senate Intelligence Committee to protect its interests, adding that “ultimately, we have the right as United States Senators” to access the records.
“We note that your request of the Committee is made pursuant to Senate Rule 26, but fails to account for the unique authorities and obligations invested in this Committee through Senate Resolution 400 and respected over decades of Senate and Committee practice,” Rubio and Warner responded. “Accordingly, we must reject the absolutist interpretation of Rule 26 that you propose. If this Committee elects to share materials that it has collected and generated in the course of its investigation into Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, it will do so pursuant to these long-standing Committee rules, and specifically, the joint agreement of the Chairman and the Vice Chairman.”
Rubio and Warner added: “Independent of whether that agreement is forthcoming, our position on this matter obviously does not preclude you from pursuing your own investigation, using your own authorities, as you see fit, within the confines of your committees’ jurisdictions.”
Rubio, Warner, Johnson, and Grassley did not provide the Washington Examiner with comment.
“As part of our investigation into the presidential transition in 2016 and early 2017, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee authorized the issuance of subpoenas, if necessary, to several individuals regarding the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation and the ‘unmasking’ of U.S. persons or entities during the transition period. While seeking the voluntary cooperation of several prospective witnesses, several have requested — and provided permission for — us to review transcripts of their testimony before your committee because of the overlapping subject matter,” Johnson and Grassley wrote in August. “The review of these discrete number of transcripts would assist in our investigation by narrowing the areas to be addressed with each witness.”
Democrats have claimed that the inquiry run by Johnson and Grassley has gotten information from pro-Russian Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Derkach, who was recently sanctioned by the Treasury Department for his pro-Kremlin election interference efforts, but the two Republicans have repeatedly rejected such allegations for weeks.
“We flatly reject and deny any claims that we have received, much less are relying on, any materials received from Andriy Derkach — and there is no such evidence to support these false Democrat claims,” Grassley and Johnson said in early September.
In August, Johnson argued that “it is Democrats who have sought out and disseminated Russian disinformation” because “it was the Democratic National Committee, together with cutouts for the Clinton campaign, that paid for and helped peddle the Steele dossier.”
Grassley and Johnson told the Senate Intelligence Committee they also wanted records related to the CIA’s contacts with Perkins Coie lawyers Michael Sussmann and Marc Elias. Elias hired opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which then hired British ex-spy Christopher Steele, who compiled the anti-Trump dossier. Both Sussmann and Elias had contact with Steele during the 2016 election.
Rubio and Warner responded by saying, “We appreciate your desire to pursue your investigative work and look forward to hearing how your findings contribute to the conclusions of U.S. Attorney John Durham, the Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s publicly released reports, and the five volumes of relevant investigative work that this Committee has publicly released.”
The fourth volume determined that the assessment by the CIA, the FBI, and the National Security Agency “presents a coherent and well-constructed intelligence basis for the case of unprecedented Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” Those Senate Intelligence Committee findings clash with a 2018 report from the House Intelligence Committee, led at the time by California Republican Devin Nunes. That assessment concluded that “the majority of the Intelligence Community Assessment judgments on Russia’s election activities employed proper analytic tradecraft” but that the “judgments on Putin’s strategic intentions did not.”
The intelligence assessment is being scrutinized by Durham.