After an apparent standoff of sorts between the House Intelligence Committee and the Director of National Intelligence’s office, or ODNI, transcripts from the congressional investigation of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election are now declassified and publicly available.
U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who chairs the committee, had been accused of suppressing the documents, but he broke down and released them on Thursday when acting DNI Richard Grenell vowed to make them public if he refused, the Washington Examiner reported.
Grenell makes his move
As chairman of the same committee during 2017 and 2018, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) conducted more than 50 interviews of officials from the Trump and Obama administrations in an effort to determine whether Russia had colluded with Trump ahead of the election, the Associated Press reported.
In a report released in 2018, the Republican-led committee said the investigation uncovered no evidence of such a conspiracy, though Democrats on the panel disagreed.
Nevertheless, a unanimous and bipartisan vote called for the public release of associated interview transcripts, provided they had been declassified by the ODNI and necessary redactions were made, as the AP noted. That process was reportedly completed for more than 40 transcripts by mid-2019, though a dispute soon arose over White House input into the process.
Schiff, who had become chairman of the committee by that point, refused an ODNI request for participation by the Trump administration in declassifying 10 sensitive transcripts, which went on to remain classified until the development announced this week.
“Willing to release the transcripts”
The congressman’s reversal comes amid increasing pressure to declassify the documents, culminating with a letter from Grenell indicating that he would release them if Schiff did not.
“All of the transcripts, with required redactions, can be released to the public without any concerns of disclosing classified material,” Grenell wrote, according to the Examiner. “In the interests of transparency and accountability, I urge you to honor your previous public statements, and your Committee’s unanimous vote on this matter, to release all 53 cleared transcripts to all Members of Congress and the American public as soon as possible.”
He went on to say stat that he would be “willing to release the transcripts directly from the ODNI, as to ensure we comply” with the 2018 vote to declassify them.
Former U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who retired from Congress in 2017, said in response to the news that Schiff should have his security clearance revoked for his conduct in leading the investigation, Fox News reported.
Though many would argue the process dragged on far too long, the American people can now read these historic and important transcripts and make up their own minds based on actual evidence instead of partisan mudslinging. It’s about time.