House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff will permit President Donald Trump's new intelligence chief to declassify additional portions of a 2018 Republican-led committee report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Democrats have derided the report as a whitewash of the episode, contending that Republicans closed their inquiry without seeking testimony from central witnesses and refused to subpoena others who wouldn’t answer fundamental questions. But an aide to the Schiff-led committee said Thursday that Schiff "won't object" to John Ratcliffe's request to view the unredacted report and consider whether additional portions might be declassified for the public.
The move is the latest indication that the administration is pursuing Trump's demands to relitigate the investigations that dogged the first three years of his presidency. Trump has repeatedly assailed the Russia probes as a "hoax" and "witch hunt. Since Trump survived a Senate impeachment trial, he has sought to oust officials across government he viewed as disloyal, and he has installed some of his fiercest allies in senior intelligence roles amid this effort.
The GOP report, based on nearly 60 witness interviews, produced no evidence that Trump or his associates conspired with Russians during the Kremlin's 2016 interference. The panel also raised questions about the intelligence "tradecraft" used by the Obama administration to determine that Russia favored Trump to win, though that conclusion has since been reaffirmed by special counsel Robert Muller and the GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee.
“The Republican report was properly met with derision at the time, and conflicts not only with the unanimous conclusion of the intelligence community, but special counsel Mueller’s evidence and findings, evidence presented in criminal indictments, the bipartisan findings of the SSCI, and the report of the then-HPSCI minority," a House Intelligence Committee aide said. "The GOP report remains a transparent effort to rewrite the history of the 2016 election by disputing the clear and proven finding that Putin preferred Trump’s election to the presidency."
The panel's response followed Ratcliffe's request for a new look at the 2018 GOP report, revealed in a letter to Senate Republicans made public earlier Thursday. In the letter, Ratcliffe provided a newly declassified portion of the Obama administration's review of Russian interference in the election and told the senators he would seek Schiff's permission for a new look at the 2018 GOP report.
"To ensure that the IC does not encroach on Congressional prerogatives, I have requested that the Chairman of HPSCI share a copy of the report with me so that the IC can conduct a classification review," Ratcliffe wrote in the June 10 letter.
Ratcliffe, a former GOP congressman who was confirmed last month as the director of national intelligence, was in his first term on the House Intelligence Committee when Trump nominated him to the post. He didn't play a role in the panel's crafting of the 2018 report, but he emerged as a sharp critic of the Mueller investigation from his perch on the panel, as well as on the House Judiciary Committee.
The office of the DNI did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Schiff's reply.