WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – Congressional intelligence committee Democrats said yesterday they would soon be allowed to view documents at the centre of a political firestorm surrounding the investigation of possible links between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.
Representative Adam Schiff, the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee’s ranking Democrat, said documents that officials at the White House provided to the panel’s chairman, Republican Devin Nunes, would be made available to all the members of his committee and their Senate counterparts.
“This action is long overdue and follows an inexplicable series of events in which the White House played a role in selectively and surreptitiously providing the documents to our chairman,” Schiff said in a statement.
“If the White House had any concerns over these documents, or any other documents, they should have provided them to our committee weeks ago,” he said.
Congressional committees and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are investigating what U.S. intelligence has concluded were attempts by Moscow to influence the U.S. election in Trump’s favor. They are also looking at links between Russia and Trump. Russia denies such allegations.
Trump and his allies have mounted an aggressive defence. Most recently, they have focused on unsubstantiated reports that Susan Rice, former President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, disclosed the names of Trump aides swept up by surveillance of foreign targets.
Rice dismissed the reports as “absolutely false” in an interview with MSNBC.
The day after FBI Director James Comey confirmed the FBI investigation of potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign last month, Nunes announced to reporters that the communications of members of Trump’s transition team were caught up in the surveillance.
He said the information came from documents obtained from a source he would not identify.
Nunes, a close Trump political ally, discussed the matter with the Republican president before consulting committee Democrats.
After reports Nunes got the documents from White House aides, Schiff called for him to recuse himself from the inquiry, saying his actions compromised the panel’s ability to complete a credible, bipartisan investigation.
Republican Senator Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, whose leaders have insisted they can conduct a bipartisan investigation, said on Tuesday he was open to looking into the Rice allegations, if they proved true.
Democrats underscored the gravity of the investigation.
“I wouldn’t be surprised after all of this is said and done that some people end up in jail,” Representative Joaquin Castro, a House Intelligence member, told CNN.