September 28, 2018 / 2:53 PM / 2 months ago

U.S. House committee votes to release Trump-Russia transcripts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. House of Representatives committee voted on Friday to release dozens of transcripts of interviews from its investigation of Russia meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections, including conversations with senior associates of President Donald Trump.

National flags of Russia and the U.S. fly at Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow, Russia April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

The House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously to send transcripts of 53 interviews to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which will scrub them of classified information before they are made public.

However, committee Democrats said Trump’s fellow Republicans, who hold a majority in the House and thus control the panel, refused their request to immediately release all of the transcripts to Robert Mueller, the federal special counsel investigating Russia, Trump and the election.

Adam Schiff, the committee’s top Democrat, told reporters after the meeting that Republicans refused to make some of the most important transcripts public, including interviews with fired FBI Director James Comey and Admiral Mike Rogers, the former National Security Agency director.

“There was no interest (from Republicans) in the public seeing anything that they thought might be damaging to the president,” he said.

Democrats wanted all of the transcripts released.

The meeting was closed to the press.

Asked for a response to Schiff’s comments, Jack Langer, a Republican committee spokesman, said in an emailed statement, “It’s amusing to see the Democrats continuing to promote their never-ending chain of absurd conspiracy theories.”

The transcripts release would let the public to see thousands of pages of interviews with people including the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and son-in-law and close adviser Jared Kushner, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.

Interviews with officials from former President Barack Obama’s administration are also among the transcripts.

The transcripts include discussions about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York at which Russians offered to provide damaging information about Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Trump Jr. and Kushner, among others, attended the meeting with Nataliya Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with Kremlin ties.

Committee Republicans announced in March that the panel’s investigation was over and they had found no evidence of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow’s efforts to influence U.S. politics.

Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion. Moscow has denied meddling in the 2016 U.S. campaign, but U.S. intelligence agencies found that it did so to boost Trump.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by David Gregorio and Jeffrey Benkoe

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