Rep. Mike Conaway took over the House Russia investigation earlier this month
He took over for Devin Nunes after a public spat between both parties on the committee
The House Russia investigation is not just back on track, it’s chugging on – with an agreed-upon plan to call high-profile witnesses from the campaign of President Donald Trump, new access to intelligence documents and plans to work longer hours in Washington.
“We’re working in a bipartisan manner, we’re going to be thorough, professional and meticulous,” House Russia investigation leader Mike Conaway told CNN on Wednesday. Conaway added that he is in discussions to get access to the top-level intelligence typically reserved for the “Gang of Eight” in Congress, but he declined to elaborate.
Conaway and Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead Democrat on the investigation, met and agreed on a likely witness schedule, culled from a witness list that investigators say includes 3-4 dozen names. Conaway told House intelligence committee members Tuesday that they should plan on spending more time in Washington as the investigation gears up.
It’s a complete reversal from just a few weeks ago, when the House Russia investigation was on life support – the victim of a partisan showdown sparked by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes’ clandestine trip to the White House which ended in his recusal from the investigation amid a House ethics probe.
Nunes’ recusal, House Russia investigators said Wednesday, coincided with renewed access to intelligence documents that, they said, were denied to them during the three weeks that followed Nunes’ trip to the White House.
The “reset” – as House members are calling the reinvigorated House investigation – started before lawmakers returned from their recess, with a request from Conaway that House Democrats cool their barrage of criticism in public that stemmed from Nunes’ maneuver with the White House.
Sources familiar with Conaway’s request said he wanted to get his footing while taking over the high-stakes Russia probe. Since then, Democrats and Republicans have said they want that informal détente to hold.
“You gotta go into it with the impression that it will hold, otherwise than we’re wasting our time,” said Rep. Tom Rooney, a Florida Republican who is helping Conaway lead the investigation, along with Rep. Trey Gowdy. “I think that both Adam (Schiff) and Mike (Conaway) are sincere in the fact that they want to get to the bottom of the issues and hopefully we get there and hopefully it’s not sabotaged in any way by something that doesn’t have anything to do with the investigation.”
Rep. Denny Heck, a Washington Democrat on the investigation said that Democrats agreed on rescheduled the private hearing with FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers, and Republicans agreed to reschedule the public hearing with former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
“We also are now having made available to us documents that were not heretofore available to us before,” Heck said. “So every indication is that we are now leaning into this. And I think (Conaway) ought to be given the space to do the right thing”
Republicans and Democrats were effusive in their praise of Conaway Wednesday – a far cry from four weeks ago, when Schiff was calling on his Republican counterpart to step aside from the Russia probe.
“There’s no finer, honest, more sincere person that I know up here, than that guy,” Rooney said of Conaway. “You can’t BS people on either side of the aisle when you are that way.”