House Speaker Ryan backs embattled intelligence panel chairman

A lawyer for former Deputy Atty.

The White House called the Post story "entirely false" and said the administration had not taken any steps to block Yates from testifying at the hearing at which other Obama administration officials were also scheduled to testify.

Yates had informed the Justice Department that she had meant to testify about the non-classified information related to her concerns "about the conduct of a senior official", thought to be then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. A person familiar with the situation confirmed them as authentic to the Associated Press.

"The White House has taken no action to prevent Sally Yates from testifying and the Department of Justice specifically told her that it would not stop her and to suggest otherwise is completely irresponsible", White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement.

Gen. Sally Yates, shown testifying on Capitol Hill in 2015, was sacked by President Trump on January 30. The Trump White House has not yet weighed in. The panel has no public hearings on its calendar, but Schiff told NPR on Tuesday that Republican and Democratic staffers are continuing to review documents and assemble lists of potential witnesses. But one day before making that allegation, he met with a source on White House grounds, raising more questions about his transparency and credibility.

Nunes would not name the source of the information, and his office said he did not intend to share it with other members of the committee.

"I believe the public cannot have the necessary confidence that matters involving the president's campaign or transition team can be objectively investigated or overseen by the chairman", Schiff said in a statement Monday.

That kerfuffle, along with Nunes' decision to cancel this week's hearings, led Schiff to call for Nunes to recuse himself from the Russian Federation investigation.

Shortly afterward, Nunes announced that Trump associates' communications had been were caught up in "incidental" surveillance, a revelation President Trump used to defend his unproven claim that his predecessor tapped the phones at Trump Tower.

Yates may still appear before Nunes and Schiff's committee, Schiff said on Tuesday, but no hearings are on the calendar and the process is still in disarray after a unusual back-and-forth last week. She said his actions raise questions about whether the panel's investigation can be unbiased and independent. He said that a line in that letter said that if the White House didn't respond before the hearing date, Yates would interpret the administration's silence as approval.

Democrats have been furious that Nunes has yet to describe precisely the classified intelligence he has seen. Schiff told NPR journalists that the situation was not "sustainable", but if he and Democrats were to walk away from the process, the chamber's only Russian Federation investigation would very likely fold.

None of this was shared with the committee, though Nunes informed the White House and the press first.

The decision comes after a freakish series of events that has Nunes, by his own admission, acting as the lead character in his own spy novel, meeting sources on the White House grounds late at night to review secret intelligence reports that said Trump transition members were "incidentally" spied on in an Obama-era dragnet. In an interview on CNN, he suggested the president's aides were unaware of the meeting.

  • Larry Hoffman