Thursday on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, decried his GOP counterpart committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) for issuing subpoenas for former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, former CIA Director John Brennan and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.
The subpoenas pertained to the unmasking of Americans in raw intelligence data. However, Schiff claimed Nunes’ subpoenas violated his recusal earlier this in the committee’s probe into alleged ties between President Donald Trump, his associates, and the Russians.
Partial transcript as follows:
MITCHELL: First of all, the subpoenas. Now the House — your committee, jointly announced with the Republican acting chair, or the chair who stepped in for Devin Nunes after he recused himself under pressure from the Russia investigation — you announced that you’re investigating, that you were rather subpoenaing Michael Cohn, his law firm, and Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser and his firm. So four subpoenas in all. Then, when did you first learn that there were three more subpoenas that had been issued by the chair by Devin Nunes, apparently, on his own?
SCHIFF: Well there are two issues here. The first is, Mr. Conway and I have agreed that when we ask people to voluntarily cooperate and they don’t, the strong presumption is, we’ll subpoena them. And Mr. Flynn and Mr. Cohn were not willing to cooperate, so we agreed to the approval these subpoenas.
Now the committee rules provide that the Chair has to sign the subpoenas unless that authority is delegated to someone else. That authority should have been delegated to Mike Conaway in consultation with myself. That hasn’t happened yet. And I think that’s a violation of the recusal by the Chairman, much in the same way I thought the Attorney General’s recusal should have covered whether he participated at all in the firing of the person leading the FBI investigation. So I think in both cases, commitments to recuse themselves have not been fully honored.
I hope that will change. But the second issue involves three other subpoenas that went out without consultation with the minority. I only learned about this late the night before, and that’s a problem. And these were sent out unilaterally by the Chairman. And I think they’re part of the White House desire to shift attention away from the Russia probe and on to the issue of unmasking. But Mr. Conaway and I are determined not to lose our focus on the Russian investigation, and so we plod on, keeping our eyes on what has to be done, and unwilling to let this other stuff distract us.
MITCHELL: Well, he has the legal right to issue the subpoenas unilaterally, does he not? Or do you believe that his recusal actually in some way would restrict him? He claims that — or, he hasn’t said this, but clearly, they’re trying to say that the unmasking issue is a separate issue from the Russia investigation from which he recused himself.
SCHIFF: Well, it certainly doesn’t appear separate to the President. And I think ultimately, the question is for the Speaker of the House. He has only designated one committee to be doing this investigation. And is this conduct that the Speaker approves of. It’s ultimately his call.
My responsibility is to work with Mr. Conaway and make sure that the Russia investigation gets done and it gets done right. Mike is committed to that and so am I.
So that’s what we’re keeping our focus on. But if the Speaker wants to allow this kind of thing to go on, that’s really up to him, and I think he’ll ultimately be held accountable for how this is conducted.
MITCHELL: Why would a subpoena be necessary if you all have oversight over the NSA and FBI counterintelligence investigations and the CIA, certainly as the Intelligence Committee — why can’t a request be made to those agencies for any classified reports that could involve legitimate or improper unmasking, whatever the case may be?
SCHIFF: Well indeed, I don’t think they are necessary. I think the agencies are cooperating with us. I don’t think they’ve demonstrated any intent to withhold information. So apart from, I would imagine the publicity surrounding the issuance of subpoenas, I don’t really see the point. I think the intelligence committees — community and agencies are working in good faith with us as part of our ordinary overnight of issues of minimization. So I don’t think they were necessary. But again, we weren’t consulted. If the majority or the Chairman felt there was some problem, he didn’t share that problem with us.
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