Paul Ryan defends Trump on Russia as Justice Department makes a concession to GOP
President Trump laughs with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) during an event in the White House Rose Garden last year. (Evan Vucci/AP) June 7 at 5:39 PM Email the author
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan insisted on Thursday that there was âno evidence of collusionâ between the president or his campaign and Russia, as Justice Department officials sought to placate Republicans challenging the credibility of their investigation.
Ryanâs public exoneration of the president and his campaign capped a frenetic 24 hours in which he voiced support for the FBI and Justice Department, was attacked by the presidentâs supporters, and wrested a new concession from law enforcement officials.
Ryan is retiring at the end of the year, but as leader of the House Republicans, he has found himself refereeing the acrimonious standoff between GOP lawmakers and the Justice Department over access to classified information and documents relevant to the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether anyone in the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin to influence its outcome. For the most part, Ryan has sided with his fellow Republicans on that dispute, and has previously denied any collusion between Trump associates and Russia. He did so again â" emphatically â" on Thursday.
âLetâs just make that really clear: Thereâs no evidence of collusion. This is about Russia and what they did, and making sure they donât do it again,â Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters, in comments excoriating law enforcement agencies for not being more forthcoming with records that lawmakers had requested until Ryan intervened.
âIt should nât take a speaker of the House to have to get involved every one of these times to get the Department of Justice or any other department to comply with congressional oversight requests,â Ryan continued.
âThe sooner the Department of Justice complies with all of our document requests, which are legitimate document requests, the better this is going to be for everybody,â he said. âHad they complied with these document requests earlier when we made them, we probably could have spared the country all of this drama.â
[Ryan splits with Trump on FBI âspyâ claims]
Ryan added to that drama with his comments over the past two days, which bookended an unusual late-night statement from the Justice Department offering a new classified briefing to senior lawmakers about the origins of the FBIâs Russia probe.
On Wednesday, Ryan said he agreed with initial assessments that the FBI did nothing improper when it began investigating Russian campai gn interference in 2016, disputing President Trumpâs assertion that federal law enforcement planted a spy inside his campaign. In doing so, Ryan endorsed comments made days prior by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who as among the first to break with Trump over the controversy the president calls âSpygate.â Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said Wednesday that he, too, supports Gowdyâs take on the evidence.
But it was Ryan who took the brunt of the blowback, particularly from the GOP faction on Capitol Hill that has been leading the charge against the FBI and Justice Departmentâs handling of the Russia investigation, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). Following Ryanâs comments, Gaetz lashed out at those âcarrying waterâ for the Justice Department.
Next week, senior law enforcement officials plan to brief the Gang of Eight â" a group that includes the top Republicans and Democrats in each chamber, as well as the top Republicans an d Democrats on their respective intelligence committees â" about the early stages of the FBI probe. Itâs another attempt to satisfy GOP lawmakers â" chief among them House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) â" who have accused the FBI of misusing its surveillance powers to go after Trump advisers.
Democrats have argued that the GOPâs complaints with the FBI and the Justice Department are part of a campaign to help the White House discredit the Russia probe, which is led now by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
Justice Department officials vehemently deny accusations of surveillance abuses, but theyâve said that turning over sensitive classified documents to lawmakers could lead to information leaks, and endanger sources and methods.
For more than a month, the two sides have battled over the secret files regarding a confidential FBI source, Stefan A. Halper, who aided the Russia probe and repeatedly reached out to Trump adviser s in 2016. That disagreement, and some of the details that emerged, led the president to accuse the FBI of political spying.
[Cambridge University perch gave FBI source access to top intelligence figures â" and a cover as he reached out to Trump associates]
Next weekâs briefing will once again seek to settle that question, but it will happen over the objections of some Democrats. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the House Intelligence Committeeâs ranking member, said Thursday that it was a âmistakeâ for the Justice Department to have shared investigative materials about an ongoing matter in the first place.
âAfter the Speaker conceded only yesterday that the Presidentâs claims of embedded spies were false, the further disclosure of investigative matierals is inexplicable,â Schiff said in a statement.
âThe DOJ is now reinforcing a precedent it will have to live with, whether the Congress is in Republican or Democratic hands, of providing m aterials in pending or closed cases to the legislative branch upon request,â Schiffâs statement says.
In late May, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein briefed senior members of both parties about how the FBI pursued the Russia counterintelligence probe. Next weekâs follow-up is designed in part to answer questions raised by Ryan.
A senior Justice Department official said next weekâs briefing will allow lawmakers âto review certain supporting documents that were made available during the prior briefing.â Officials âare prepared to brief members on certain questions specifically raised by the speaker and other members. The department and FBI will also provide the documents that were available for review but not inspected by the members at the previous briefing, along with some additional material,ââ the official said.
The Justice Departmentâs decision to provide multiple briefings on the subject is a significant departure from its initial stance after receiving a subpoena from Nunes. The senior official said the agency believes it can provide information âdirectly responsive to congressional inquiries in a manner that is consistent with its national security and law enforcement responsibilities, and is pleased to do so.â
Democrats have voiced concerns that such briefings could allow the presidentâs legal team to get access to sensitive details of the investigation. This week, Democratic members of the Gang of Eight sent a letter to the FBI and Justice Department seeking assurances that âoutside of an appropriate judicial proceeding,â neither the president nor members of his staff or legal team would be briefed on classified information about the FBIâs source.Source: Google News Russ ia | Netizen 24 Russia