Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Thursday that Democrats tried to call Russian agent Maria Butina to testify but Republicans refused because they worried that she would “tarnish the NRA.”
During an interview on CNN, host Alisyn Camerota asked Schiff if he was aware that Butina tried to establish backchannel communications between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We certainly knew about her and part of the role she was playing we didn’t know whether she was an agent of a foreign power,” Schiff explained, adding that the committee had email correspondence that talked about “setting up a secret back channel through the NRA.”
“We heard credible allegations that the Russians may have been funneling money through the NRA so, yes, we wanted to pursue this but like many other things,” he continued. “When it got too hot, the Republican reaction was, ‘We don’t want to know. We’d rather not know.'”
“But just to be clear,” Camerota pressed. “You’re saying that your Republican colleagues on the committee called her and said do not come in? How exactly did they block her sharing information with you?”
Schiff replied: “During the course of time when they were actively in the investigation, the majority that is, we said let’s bring in Maria Butina, here are the reasons why we should hear from her, here are the reasons why we should hear from Paul Erickson who is alleged to have been involved in setting up this secret back channel.”
“The Republicans were unwilling,” the California Democrat recalled. “They said no. We don’t want to have them come in, we don’t want to hear what they have to say. They wouldn’t explain why but it was very clear that anything that might tarnish the NRA, anything that might lead to discoverable evidence that might incriminate the White House or people around the president, they didn’t want to hear.”
Watch the video below from CNN.
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McConnell spoke on the matter at a press conference, but he did not explicitly rebuke President Donald Trump.
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