- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2017

The House Intelligence Committee unveiled preliminary details concerning its probe into Russia’s purported election meddling Wednesday, albeit moments before new developments emerged concerning President Trump’s administration and its ties to Moscow.

Chairman Devin Nunes and Ranking Member Adam Schiff announced the authorization Wednesday evening of a classified, six-page scoping document detailing precisely what questions the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence intends to answer during the course of examining if and how Russia influenced last year’s White House race.

The probe will seek to uncover details involving any Russian cyber activity undertaken against the U.S. and its allies, as well as well as “links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns,” among other matters, the announcement said.

“The committee is determined to continue and expand its inquiries into these areas, including Russian activities related to the 2016 U.S. elections. On a bipartisan basis, we will fully investigate all the evidence we collect and follow that evidence wherever it leads,” said Mr. Nunes, California Republican and a former member of the executive committee that led President Trump’s transition team.

“We must follow the facts wherever they may lead, leaving no stone unturned, and that must also include both the Russian hacking and dumping of documents as well as any potential collusion between Russia and U.S. citizens,” said Mr. Schiff, California Democrat.

The announcement was overshadowed moments later however by reports indicating Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a Trump-appointee and former campaign surrogate, had met met twice last year with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, prompting him to formally recuse himself Thursday afternoon from all Justice Department investigations related to last year’s election.

Absent Mr. Sessions, Washington has plenty of individuals investigating last year’s race. In addition to the FBI’s own probe into Russia’s purported hacking operations, lawmakers in both the House and Senate are investigating allegations surrounding the Kremlin and last year’s election alike, all the while as calls linger for the creation of a select bipartisan independent commission.

And while the majority of the scope of the House Intel Committee’s probe remains classified, its leadership on said they’re seeking all information relevant to actions taken by Russia involving last year’s election, including law enforcement records and counterintelligence reports, as well as the source material that led the intelligence community to conclude in January that the Kremlin interfered in the last year’s White House race, the panel’s statement said.

Already, though, Mr. Schiff said a meeting with FBI Director James Comey on Thursday prior to the attorney general’s recusal proved to be unproductive.

“I appreciate we had a long briefing and testimony from the director today, but in order for us to do our investigation in a thorough and credible way, we’re gonna need the FBI to fully cooperate, to be willing to tell us the length and breadth of any counterintelligence investigations they are conducting,” Mr. Schiff said, according to Politico. “At this point, the director was not willing to do that.”

Mr. Comey faced “repeated questions about the scope of any investigation they were doing” and “individuals that may be the subject of any counterterrorism investigation” during the briefing, Politico reported, but declined to answer them.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly denied collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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