The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said he’s worried Republicans are trying to kill his panel’s probe into the 2016 U.S. presidential election, amid efforts to smear special counsel Robert Mueller and discredit his own investigation into last year’s race.
Rep. Adam Schiff, California Democrat, revealed his concerns during an interview with CNN host Wolf Blitzer in the wake of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein repeatedly coming under fire during a House Oversight hearing this week with respect to Mr. Mueller’s probe.
“Do you fear Republicans are laying the groundwork to end the Russia investigation?” Mr. Blitzer asked Mr. Schiff during Thursday evening’s broadcast of “The Situation Room” on CNN.
“I do,” Mr. Schiff responded. “And I think you could see, Wolf, during the hearing yesterday with Rod Rosenstein as so many of the Republicans in unison were attacking the integrity of Bob Mueller, attacking the impartiality of his investigation, and calling for an end to it, and rather the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton.
“If they’re willing to go to that length to discredit the FBI, the Justice Department and Bob Mueller, they certainly will have no compunction about shutting down the House investigation,” Mr. Schiff added.
The Russian government interfered in the 2016 White House race in hopes of disrupting the campaign of Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic candidate for president, U.S. intelligence officials previously concluded.
Four congressional committees and the special counsel’s office have since opened inquiries into Russia’s role in the race as well as any possible ties between Russian operatives and individuals close to the Republican candidate, President Trump.
Mr. Mueller’s probe has resulted in criminal charges being unsealed so far against four people associated with the 2016 Trump campaign: former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his associate Rick Gates, foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Republican lawmakers and conservative pundits alike have tried to derail Mr. Mueller’s probe in recent weeks, however, and Mr. Rosenstein was grilled repeatedly about the investigation during Wednesday’s hearing.
Mr. Schiff said Republicans are internally attempting to wreck the intel panel’s probe as well.
“In the last three or four weeks, the majority, without any consultation with us, has been scheduling witnesses at a pace completely different than what we’ve had, with multiple witnesses coming in each day, often at the same time so Members cannot be in two places at once. We’re now scheduling witnesses while we’re in session to be interviewed in other states, we’re doing a witness interview by video conference, when that witness was more than willing to come in and be interviewed in person,” Mr. Schiff said Thursday.
“And when I asked the majority, why are we doing this? This is not in the interest of the investigation — why are we bringing witnesses in before they bring in the documents we’ve requested of them? That’s no way to run an investigation. There is no answer, except, I think, they’re feeling the heat from Bannon and the White House that they need to bring this to an end,” Mr. Schiff added, referring to Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist, Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon.
Rep. Mike Conaway, the top Republican on the intel committee’s Russia probe, did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
Moscow has denied interfering in the U.S. election, and the White House has denied having improper ties to Russia.