The House Intelligence Committee chairman is threatening to subpoena FBI Director Christopher Wray for information related to the bureau’s counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Wednesday that he has unsuccessfully sought more information about that investigation and any links to Donald Trump’s winning campaign, including whether that probe is still active. The investigation was first disclosed by then-FBI Director James Comey at a committee hearing in March 2017, and Schiff said he has received few answers about it since Comey was fired by Trump two months later.
While special counsel Robert Mueller did examine Russian interference and possible ties to the Trump campaign, Schiff wants to know whether the FBI is still conducting any related counterintelligence investigations. Such inquiries can take years and extend far beyond a criminal investigation.
“We are determined to get answers, and we are running out of patience,” Schiff said after a hearing on the counterintelligence implications of Mueller’s report. “If necessary, we’ll subpoena the director and require him to come in and provide those answers under oath.”
At the hearing, one of several that House Democrats are holding to shed more light on the Mueller report, former FBI officials told lawmakers that Russian meddling bore some of the textbook tricks of the trade of Kremlin spycraft, including the volume and breadth of contacts with Trump associates.
The two witnesses, Robert Anderson and Stephanie Douglas, highlighted aspects of the Mueller report they said showed Russian efforts to screen and test Trump campaign associates, to establish back channels of communications and to spread their contacts around in hopes of maximizing their chances of getting what they wanted.
“It is an absolute classic tradecraft of Russia and Russian intelligence services. They’ll never have one point of failure,” said Anderson, a former FBI executive assistant director who used to supervise counterintelligence investigations. “If they’re looking to try to obtain or pass information or potentially even influence information, they’ll make sure that they have numerous aspects or points to where they can try to get that done.”
Also Wednesday, Trump Jr. spoke with the Senate Intelligence Committee for about three hours to clarify an interview with the committee’s staff in 2017. Senators wanted to talk to him again about the Trump Tower meeting and a Trump real estate project in Moscow.
The president’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, told a House committee in February that he had briefed Trump Jr. approximately 10 times about a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow before the 2016 election. But Trump Jr. had told Congress he was only “peripherally aware” of the real estate proposal.
As he left the interview, Trump Jr. said he was happy to clarify his answers, but “I don’t think I changed any of what I said because there was nothing to change.”
The two ex-FBI officials who testified Wednesday retired from the bureau before it opened its investigation into the Trump campaign in summer 2016. By inviting them instead of agents involved in the investigation, Democrats are giving center stage to longtime career officials devoid of the political baggage that accompanies some of the Republican president’s more outspoken critics.
Even so, the partisan divisions surfaced again. Schiff said most Americans consider the Trump campaign’s embrace of Russian aid “to constitute plain evidence of collusion.” The committee’s top Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, described allegations of collusion to be a “hoax” and suggested Democrats should apologize.