Nearly two years ago, in September of 2018, the then-Republican controlled House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence voted to release to the public dozens of declassified transcripts of witness testimony before the committee as part of the Russia collusion probe.
None of those declassified documents have actually been released to the public yet, however, and some senior intelligence officials and committee Republicans are blaming current Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) for the seemingly interminable delay, the Washington Examiner exclusively reported.
Schiff delaying release of transcripts
There are a total of 53 transcripts, 43 of which have been completely declassified and were turned over to Schiff more than six months ago as ready for release. Yet, despite Schiff himself promising to let the public see them in September of 2019, he has yet to do so.
An unnamed senior intelligence official told the Examiner, “Adam Schiff is thwarting the will of the House Intelligence Committee as expressed in the bipartisan vote in September 2018 to make these transcripts public.”
“He has appointed himself arbiter of what the public should see and has refused to allow the White House to review its own equities, making declassification of 10 of the transcripts impossible,” the official added. “It’s difficult to imagine any motive other than Schiff is still trying to control the narrative on Russia collusion.”
White House excluded from process
The White House “equities” referred to by that official were in regard to the remaining 10 transcripts, which the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) had requested in March 2019 to let the White House review as part of the declassification process — given that they potentially included sensitive White House communications — but that request was flatly rejected by Schiff.
In fact, Schiff declared that “under no circumstances” was anyone, whether at ODNI or the House Intelligence Committee, permitted to share any of the transcripts with the White House, the president, or any individual or agency associated with the president, but rather were merely to be reviewed and declassified by ODNI and returned to the committee.
It has since been learned by the Examiner that at least two of those 10 transcripts contain no classified information at all, and could readily be released to the public along with the other 43 transcripts that have already been cleared for release.
Nunes slams partisan tactics
Ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), much like the senior intelligence official, placed the onus for the delayed release solely on Schiff, and he urged his counterpart to immediately allow the transcripts to be released for the public to see.
“HPSCI Democrats opposed every Republican document request and subpoena that helped to expose malfeasance in the FBI’s Russia collusion probe,” Nunes said. “And now, by refusing to publish the witness transcripts or the transcript of the committee’s briefing with former [intelligence community Inspector General] Michael Atkinson, the Democrats are blatantly continuing to hide documents that expose their own mistruths.”
“There is no reason for keeping these documents secret except that they want to hide what’s in them,” he added.
Undoubtedly, Schiff will have all sorts of excuses ready as to why he hasn’t or can’t release the declassified transcripts from witness testimony that occurred nearly two years in a completed and closed investigation, but those excuses don’t hold water when it has been made clear by intelligence officials and committee Republicans that there is nothing classified that must remain hidden and that Schiff’s delay tactics appear purely partisan.