The House Intelligence Committee announced on Friday that it had extended invitations to three former officials with knowledge of Russia’s interference in the US election to testify in an open hearing in May, over a month after the committee’s chairman first scrapped the session.
“Yesterday, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence sent two letters related to its investigation into Russian active measures during the 2016 election campaign,” Emily Hytha, a spokesperson for Republican Rep. Mike Conaway, wrote on Friday.
“The first letter was sent to FBI Director James Comey and National Security Advisor Admiral Mike Rogers, inviting them to appear at a closed hearing on May 2, 2017,” Hytha wrote. “The second letter was sent to former CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates inviting them to appear at an open hearing to be scheduled after May 2nd.”
The letters appear to mark the end of an impasse that emerged late last month, when the committee’s chairman, Devin Nunes, accused Democrats of not signing a letter inviting FBI Director James Comey to testify before the committee in a closed session and failing to provide their witness list to the committee’s majority.
His comments surprised Democrats, who said they had offered to schedule both a closed hearing and an open hearing with Comey. While the committee has no plans so far to hold another open hearing with Comey — he appeared in an open session with Rogers last month — the Democrats had been pushing to reschedule the open hearing with Yates, Brennan, and Clapper that Nunes had scrapped.
The break in the impasse comes a couple weeks after Nunes recused himself from the committee’s probe into Russia’s election-related meddling. He stepped down on April 6 and handed the probe over to Conaway amid questions about his ability to lead an independent investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.
Nunes, who served on Trump’s transition team, came under intense scrutiny last month for his decision to bypass the rest of his committee and brief Trump on classified executive-branch documents which he said showed that members of Trump’s transition team had been swept up in government surveillance. R
eports have said he obtained those documents from White House officials, despite earlier claims that he had gotten them from an intelligence source.
Nunes’ vice-chair, Rep. Adam Schiff, criticised Nunes for bypassing the committee, calling on him to either share the documents with his colleagues or recuse himself. He also disagreed with Nunes’ unexpected decision cancel the open hearing with Yates, Brennan, and Clapper, which had been scheduled for late March.
The Washington Post reported at the time that the White House had pressured Yates — who reportedly warned Trump administration officials in January that former national security adviser Michael Flynn could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail — not to testify. The White House has denied intervening.
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