Published: Fri, March 31, 2017
National | By Mildred Castro

Nunes, Schiff meet to try to get Russia investigation back on track

Nunes, Schiff meet to try to get Russia investigation back on track

The White House has invited the top Republican and Democratic members of the Senate and House of Representatives intelligence panels to review new material relevant to their investigation into Russia's alleged interference in the USA presidential election, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Thursday. That information was believed to have been provided to him by his former staffer Michael Ellis - who was hired by the Trump White House on March 7.

Cohen-Watnick is among about a dozen White House officials who would have access to the types of classified information Nunes says he viewed, according to current and former US officials.

The Times identified Ezra Cohen-Watnick of the National Security Council and Michael Ellis, a national security lawyer with the White House Counsel's Office, as the two officials who played a role.

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He previously served on Trump's transition team.

Cohen-Watnick, as Politico wrote on March 14, appealed the decision to White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and senior adviser Jared Kushner, two men he became close with during the transition. Schiff also said he's asked the White House if the materials he's been invited to view are the same as the intelligence viewed by Nunes last week. White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who hasn't detailed Nunes' visit to the White House last week, cited Nunes' comments to Bloomberg on Monday. Cohen-Watnick worked for Flynn when he was in charge of the Defense Intelligence Agency. The circuitous route might have been "designed to hide the origins of the information", he suggested, which "raises profound questions about what the White House is doing". Nunes angered Schiff and other Democrats on the committee when he shared details about their investigation with the public and the White House before sharing it with them.

The House panel's work has been deeply, and perhaps irreparably, undermined by Nunes' apparent coordination with the White House.

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Only hours after Yates's attorney informed the White House that Yates would testify despite attempts to invoke "executive privilege" to gag her, Nunes cancelled the hearing at which she was to appear.

This action was a clear breach of the separation of powers-congressional committees, like that chaired by Nunes, are supposed to exercise oversight of executive branch activities, not report to the executive branch in secret. Schiff today said Nunes has yet to inform him what was the info, where he saw it, and who showed it to him.

Cohen-Watnick is among about a dozen White House officials who would have access to the types of classified information Nunes says he viewed, according to current and former US officials.

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