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Rift continues among lawmakers probing Russia’s election meddling

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., listens at left as the committee’s ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., talk to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 2, 2017. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., listens at left as the committee’s ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., talk to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 2, 2017. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
By Deb Riechmann Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The top Republican and Democrat on the House intelligence committee had conflicting messages Thursday when they emerged from a 31/2-hour closed-door briefing with FBI Director James Comey on Russian activities during the presidential election.

Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said Comey was “forthright” and that the meeting was a “good first step” in getting the FBI’s cooperation with the panel’s investigation, though he added that more information from the FBI and the intelligence community would be needed.

Nunes also told reporters that the committee had not seen evidence of any contacts between Russian officials and President Donald Trump’s campaign, other than ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn’s phone calls with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., on the other hand, had tough words for the FBI, accusing the agency of stonewalling the committee.

“I would say at this point we know less than a fraction of what the FBI knows,” Schiff said, adding that if the FBI doesn’t cooperate voluntarily, the committee will have to contemplate whether to subpoena information from Comey’s agency.

“On the areas he was willing to discuss, we had a very in depth set of questions and answers,” Schiff said. “But there were very large areas that were walled off and those walls are gonna have to come down if we’re gonna do our job.”

Despite differing views about the briefing, Nunes stressed that the committee was moving forward in bipartisan fashion.

On Wednesday night, the House committee released a bipartisan statement outlining the scope of its investigation to include Russian cyber activity and other “active measures” directed against the U.S. and counterintelligence concerns related to Russia and the 2016 U.S. election. That includes any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns. The committee also said it was probing the U.S. government’s response to the Russian activities and possible leaks of classified information related to the intelligence committee’s assessments of the matter.

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