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House Democrats seek 20 to 30 more witnesses in Russia probe, but GOP resists

Michael Isikoff
Chief Investigative Correspondent
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square in Moscow. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Yuri Gripas/Reuters, Getty Images)

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have a list of 20 to 30 witnesses they still want to question in the Russia investigation, but fear that Republicans will block them from doing so.

“I don’t know we’re going to get a crack at them,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., told Yahoo News’ Skullduggery podcast.

Speier said that Republican staff members on the panel may even have engaged in tampering with witnesses to thwart inquires into President Trump’s or his campaign’s ties to the Russians, but did not elaborate.


Listen: Episode 7: Rep. Jackie Speier vents about the Russia investigation

“I think our investigation has been tied in knots from the very beginning,” Speier said. “So many of the witnesses we had come before us to testify were not subpoenaed, nor were their documents produced. So we were asking the questions without the benefit of documentation to determine whether they were telling the truth or not.”

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., a member of the House Intelligence Committee. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Asked if she has seen evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians that goes beyond what has already been made public, Speier said: “I have seen evidence of an interest in coordinating with the Russians.”

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Speier then laid out her suspicions at some length:

“Why is Donald Trump so unwilling to impose sanctions [against Russia] that Congress has passed and he signed into law,” she said. “And I think the answer is, he has financial arrangements with the Russians that we have yet been able to uncover. And I think it has something to with the fact that we’ve never seen his tax returns. There are too many relationships you can point to where Trump engaged with Russian operatives; where statements by the Trump sons have suggested they get most of their business from the Russians; the Russian oligarch who purchased his mansion in Florida for twice the value —as the entire financial world was careening out of control in 2008 and, at the same time, that Donald Trump had a personal debt that was due.”

“So I am very concerned that there is a corrupting nature of the Russians on Donald Trump and others that we’ll never know,” Speier continued.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., with Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., also a member of the Intelligence Committee. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

On the release of the Democratic rebuttal to the controversial memo written by House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Ca., Speier said she’s not optimistic her party’s memo will ever be made public. The Nunes memo, she said, was “the equivalent of a third-grade book report” while the Democratic rebuttal was like a “post-graduate dissertation with footnotes.”

But Speier said she doubts that the White House — which has ultimate authority over what material is declassified for public release — will ever approve a version of the Democratic memo that will be the least bit informative.

“I don’t think there was ever any interest in making the rebuttal memo public unless it was totally redacted, so it was made meaningless,” she said.

Asked about special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment last week of Russian trolls who worked for the Internet Research Agency and who set up phony Facebook and Twitter accounts to interfere in the U.S. election, Speier said the case pointed to a major intelligence failure by the U.S. government.

“Shame on all of us in the United States for not recognizing how pernicious this Internet Research Agency was going to be,” she said. She noted there was even a New York Times Sunday Magazine article that exposed the group’s operations some years ago, “yet it wasn’t taken very seriously. We can point fingers at a lot of folks for why [the Internet Research Agency was] able to flourish in the way they did.”

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