Rep. Swalwell: Nunes ‘betrayed’ duty to independent Russia probe

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JUDY WOODRUFF: The drama on Capitol Hill today wasn’t just on the health care front. As we reported earlier, the House Intelligence Committee descended into further division over its Russia investigation.

Hari Sreenivasan has that.

HARI SREENIVASAN: There were new and more serious fractures today on the Intelligence Committee. It’s investigating Russian meddling in last year’s election, and alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Now the very direction of the probe itself seems in question.

Here for some more on this is one of the committee’s Democratic members, Representative Eric Swalwell of California.

Congressman, you have said before that you feel that Chairman Devin Nunes has a conflict of interests. Do you think he’s taking orders from the White House?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL, D-Calif.: I think he betrayed the duty to conduct an independent, collaborative investigation.

We were attacked by Russia this past election, and our constituents are counting on us to get to the bottom of what happened. He’s going off on his own, and receiving classified information, not sharing it with members of the committee, taking it to the White House, where the president’s campaign is currently under criminal and counterintelligence investigations.

I think what we need to do is, he needs to find an on-ramp, because this investigation must continue to go forward. And he must work with Democrats. Otherwise, our constituents are going to ask, how can you conduct a credible investigation into the largest attack that our elections have ever seen?

HARI SREENIVASAN: The information at the center of this particular controversy, he said that he has information of apparent unmasking of identified of U.S. persons tied to the Trump campaign collected under legal surveillance. Have you now seen in the last couple of days seen any of this information?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL: He should unmask this evidence for his colleagues on the Intelligence Committee. And that is what is so disturbing.

He told us yesterday, after he apologized for how this happened, that we would see this evidence today. We haven’t seen it. No one knows who or what he is talking about. And, again, it has seriously compromised the independence of an investigation that people are counting on us to conduct.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, just in the past 24 hours or so, the Democratic head of the Congress, Adam Schiff, has said that there is also — quote — “more than circumstantial evidence of collusion” between Trump campaign and Russia.

Have you seen any of that?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL: No, so, that’s reserved for members of the Gang of Eight, who include the chairman of the committee and the ranking member.

But I do credit our ranking member, who is pushing for all members of the committee to have access to this information. But I would also tell you, Hari, that there is enough information out there in the unclassified world that shows serious ties, personal, political and financial, that converge with Russia as they were conducting this interference campaign.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In your opinion, what can salvage this investigation?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL: Well, it’s really — the speaker is the one who is in charge of who chairs the Intelligence Committee. And it looks like he was party to this stunt. He authorized Devin Nunes to receive the information and take it to the White House.

And so we are going to continue to go forward, as Democrats, and listen to witnesses and review evidence. But we need an independent commission now more than ever. That’s not only the most comprehensive way to get to the bottom of what happened. Now it’s an insurance policy against this compromised investigation.

HARI SREENIVASAN: We heard the chairman’s comments this morning. Do you know why he made next week’s session closed with FBI Director Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL: To further obstruct us from getting to the bottom of the truth.

And that’s what is so frustrating here, is, we had an open hearing. The American people for the first time since this attack heard evidence about Russia’s conduct and the Trump team ties, had that evidence validated by the FBI director, who confirmed an investigation is under way.

And they were looking forward to a hearing this coming Tuesday from other witnesses who had information. And to cancel it, I think, only obstructs our pursuit for the truth.

HARI SREENIVASAN: But isn’t the bulk of the committee’s work done behind closed doors?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL: Only if we have to pass classified information to a witness or we have to receive classified information from a witness.

And, in this case, we had already received opening statement testimony in an unclassified form from the witnesses. And so now this is on hold. And people at home are wondering, what are you going to do to make sure we’re never in this mess again?

HARI SREENIVASAN: There were reports this afternoon that advisers close to President Trump, Roger Stone and Paul Manafort and Carter Page, they are interested in having a public hearing. They feel essentially that they’re under the microscope here and they want an opportunity to address the committee.

Is that an option?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL: Yes.

We are very interested in having them testify only in public. And I think the only way we really earn and reclaim the independence of this committee is to bring those witnesses forward in public and ask them about serious questions around what they were doing, why they were going to Russia as this interference campaign was going on, and, for Mr. Manafort, why such extensive financial ties to Russia and pro-Russia individuals.

HARI SREENIVASAN: We had two almost separate press conferences today by the heads of this committee. What puts this back on track towards any sort of bipartisan kind of effort?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL: Well, first, the chairman needs to fulfill the promise he made to the committee members yesterday, including members on his own side, that he will show us evidence that he received and took over to the White House. That’s the first step.

And, unless that occurs, I don’t see how we get back to having the real credibility that the American people are counting on us to have.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Representative Eric Swalwell, thank you.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL: Yes. My pleasure, Hari.

 

Article: PBS.org