WASHINGTON – The House Intelligence Committee voted Wednesday to send more than 50 interview transcripts about Russian interference in the 2016 election to special counsel Robert Mueller, who could potentially use them to pursue charges of perjury.
The vote came scarcely half a day after President Donald Trump cajoled lawmakers in his State of the Union address to end what he called “ridiculous partisan investigations.” It amounted to an open invitation to Mueller to investigate the people who had testified to the committee, a list that includes the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The action is the first since Democrats took control of the House in January, with Rep. Adam Schiff of California as chairman.
Schiff said in a statement on Wednesday that the panel will deepen its investigations of Russian election interference, seeking possible links to Trump’s businesses, his campaign and his administration. And he said lawmakers would probe whether the Kremlin holds “leverage” over Trump.
“It is now known that, from late 2015 through early 2017, individuals close to Donald Trump engaged in a significant number of contacts with an array of individuals connected to, or working on behalf of, the Russian government, and that several of these contacts involved efforts to acquire and disseminate damaging information about Hillary Clinton and her campaign, or related to Russia’s desired relief from U.S. sanctions,” Schiff said.
Republicans on the panel said in a statement on Wednesday that they had voted to send the transcripts to the executive branch, including Mueller, in September, so officials could review them for classified information before the committee made them public. They accused Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats of not acting quickly enough to declassify them.
President Trump has repeatedly called the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt.” And on Tuesday, he used his second State of the Union address to warn newly powerful House Democrats against investigating him.
“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” Trump said Tuesday in his speech.
Lying to the committee has already generated charges in the Mueller investigation.
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, has already pleaded guilty in November to lying to the panel about the extent of negotiations over a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 campaign.
Roger Stone, a longtime associate of Trump, was charged last month with lying to the committee about contacts with senior Trump campaign officials and Wikileaks, which released emails damaging to Trump’s rival, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Stone has pleaded innocent, saying he did nothing wrong and that any misstatements were simple mistakes rather than lies.