Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has accused Republicans on the panel of attempting to block witnesses from answering certain questions in an effort to protect President Trump.
“As you know, they would frequently interject with the witness when we were asking them questions, ‘You know you don’t have to answer that question,'” Schiff said in an interview for the foreign policy podcast “Diplomatic Cable” hosted by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas).
“That’s how you obstruct an investigation, not how you conduct one,” the California lawmaker added.
Schiff also suggested that Republicans have refused to publicly release transcripts from the committee’s witness interviews because that would help special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation, which is examining ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
This is something the president’s allies in the House do not want to do, Schiff noted.
Republicans on the panel voted along party lines in March to end its Russia probe — a move Democrats alleged was a “premature” decision designed to shield the president.
During his interview with Castro, Schiff fiercely criticized House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and other GOP lawmakers on the panel for their conduct during their yearlong Russia probe that became defined by bitter infighting.
Schiff said the relations between Republicans and Democrats on the committee deteriorated after Nunes secretly visited the White House grounds just one day before announcing incidental surveillance of President Trump’s transition team.
Nunes first claimed last April that a whistleblower had provided him with evidence that Obama administration officials improperly unmasked members of Trump’s transition team — information that later turned out to have been provided to him by White House officials.
Schiff asserted that Nunes began running interference for the White House after hearing former FBI Director James Comey testify before Congress last year about the launch of the FBI counterintelligence probe.
This, Schiff claimed, was a tipping point for the committee. Up until then, he said, the panel’s work had largely been done on a bipartisan basis.
“At that point, I think the chairman of the committee, Devin Nunes, made the decision that this was too dangerous to the president, to continue to investigate what Russia did,” Schiff told Castro.
When asked what the committee would’ve been like if he had been chairman instead of Nunes, Schiff replied it would’ve been “a very different path.”
“I think that when that blew up, it was clear they were on a completely different trajectory. Their mission was no longer investigating Russia but protecting the president,” Schiff said.
“Had the majority been in Democratic hands, we would have continued to run a credible and bipartisan investigation of what the Russians did, what role Trump campaign people or anyone else played in the Russian interference.”
Nunes’s office didn’t immediately return a request for comment from The Hill.
House Republicans, however, repeatedly noted during the probe that they view Schiff as a partisan figure on the panel, while Democrats have blasted Nunes’s behavior.
Schiff noted that Democrats view the investigation as ongoing and continue to conduct interviews with witnesses on a voluntary basis.
MSNBC on Wednesday released an audio recording of Nunes suggesting at a private event that Republicans must maintain control of the House in order to protect Trump from the Mueller probe.
“If [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions won’t unrecuse and Mueller won’t clear the president, we’re the only ones,” Nunes said last week, while speaking at a closed-door event for GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.).