Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has abruptly canceled a public hearing scheduled for next Tuesday with former DNI director James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. The hearing is part of the committee’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, including whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives.
The ranking member of the Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), characterized Nunes’ decision as an effort to choke off public information about the inquiry.
BREAKING: Chairman just cancelled open Intelligence Committee hearing with Clapper, Brennan and Yates in attempt to choke off public info.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) March 24, 2017
Tuesday’s hearing was a continuation of a hearing on Monday which featured FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers. In that hearing, Comey revealed there was an active investigation, which has been ongoing since July, into whether Trump associates collaborated with Russian operatives in their efforts to interfere with the election.
The decision comes a day after CNN reported that “The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.” Schiff himself now calls the evidence of coordination between Trump associates and Russia more than circumstantial.
Schiff described the cancellation as part of a pattern of odd behavior by Nunes seemingly designed to distract from the core issues of the Russia investigation.
Earlier this week Nunes said an undisclosed source shared intelligence reports that may have inappropriately “unmasked” the names of Trump associates. Nunes later said he wasn’t sure if Trump associates had anything to do with intelligence reports he was shown. Nevertheless, Nunes dramatically visited the White House to “brief” the president.
It appeared to be an oblique effort to counter Trump’s unfounded assertion that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. Trump said he felt “vindicated” by Nunes’ statements, though even Nunes admits Trump Tower was not wiretapped.
Separately, the former chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign, Paul Manafort, has volunteered to speak with the House Intelligence Committee.
Manafort’s decision comes two days after the Associated Press reported he received a $10 million annual contract from a Russian billionaire with a close ties to the Kremlin in which he promised to “greatly benefit the Putin Government.”
Manafort had previously denied any connections with Putin.
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) March 22, 2017
Nunes said he was contacted by Manafort’s lawyers. He said that he would allow Manafort to speak to the committee in a closed session, if that’s what Manafort requested.
It’s unclear what prompted Manafort to step forward or what information he wants to share with the committee.
Schiff said he welcomed Manafort’s testimony but said it should be “done in open session so the public may be informed of what he has to say.”