The Democratic ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee said Thursday that the FBI had not been cooperative with the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Emerging after a three-hour meeting with FBI Director James Comey, and speaking after committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) midday, Schiff told reporters that the committee knew “less than a fraction of what the FBI knows,” and said he “absolutely” learned of intelligence on Thursday that he had not been made aware of as a member of the “gang of eight” – that is, the leaders of both parties in both the House and Senate and of both chambers’ intelligence committees.
“I don’t think at all that we’ve gotten the kind of quarterly briefings that we should have been getting. Not now, not in the summer, not in the fall and not even to this day,” he said.
Schiff accused the FBI of withholding information from the committee and raised the possibility of subpoenaing FBI officials if they were not more forthcoming.
“In order for us to do our investigation in a thorough and credible way, we’re going to need the FBI to fully cooperate, to be willing to tell us the length and breadth of any counterintelligence investigations they are conducting,” he said. “At this point, the director was not willing to do that. There were repeated questions about the scope of any investigation they were doing, individuals that may be the subject of any counterterrorism investigation. And the director declined to answer those questions. It was unclear whether that decision was a decision he was making on his own or a decision that he is making in consultation with the Department of Justice.”
He added later: “We are better off getting that through the voluntary cooperation of the FBI than having to contemplate whether we need to subpoena the FBI.”
Schiff isn’t alone in his frustration with the FBI. On Thursday morning, for example, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) complained to reporters about Comey’s lack of forthrightness with legislators, even in private.
“I am tired of reading about innuendo. Somebody is leaking this crap,” Graham said. “And it’s putting people like me in a terrible spot. So I’m going to meet with the FBI director today, and I’m going to look him in the eye, and he’s going to tell me there’s an investigation or there’s not, and if he doesn’t tell me, he’s going to have a hard time.”
Schiff did say after his meeting with Comey that he was “convinced” that a special prosecutor was needed to investigate Russian interference in the election.
“Up until now I wasn’t sure whether there should be a special prosecutor because that is a function of a couple of things,” he said. “It’s a function of whether the attorney general can be independent, or whether there’s a conflict of interest or an appearance of impropriety and whether there is something concrete and specific enough to be investigated.”
“I am now convinced that both of those criteria are met and an independent prosecutor should be appointed. Certainly the attorney general is in no position to oversee any investigation or prosecution involving any of the counterintelligence issues concerning Russia.”