Don’t expect big bombshells or deeply classified information to emerge from Monday’s long-awaited House Intelligence panel hearing into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election — and other related possible spying.
That’s according to Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., the only member from Illinois on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which is holding its first hearing about Russia’s role in the 2016 contest.
FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers will testify on-the-record under oath starting at 9 a.m. Chicago time as President Donald Trump deplores as “fake news” stories suggesting potential links between people in the Trump orbit and Russia.
I caught up with Quigley on Sunday on what might occur at the Monday session as he was boarding a plane to fly from Chicago to Washington. Quigley has been on the Intel panel for two-and-a-half years.
The potentially sprawling congressional probe is “far more extensive than people are imagining,” Quigley told me.
He said the most important question to ask is “was there collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians?”
Quigley said Russians should be taken in the broad sense — the official Russian government and other actors.
QUIGLEY’S OTHER TAKES . . .
On whether secrets will be revealed on Monday: “It’s important to say this. This is an open hearing (in contrast to closed sessions where classified material is discussed) so these guys aren’t going to reveal some big secret.
“This is an ongoing investigation. It’s going to be awhile and I suspect that what we are going to see Monday is more of a framing of this — the scope of the investigation rather than some earth-shattering thing.”
At the most, what might be learned on Monday? “You will see Comey rebut the notion of wiretapping of Trump Tower,” the allegation Trump made in a series of tweets two weeks ago.
The chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., has said there is no evidence of a Trump Tower wiretap. Quigley agrees with the GOP chairman on this one.
GOP focus at the hearing: Republicans “will focus their concerns about leaks” surfacing in news stories about the Russians and the election.
Quigley’s best guess: The GOP members may go down the road of pushing Comey and Rogers to explain “How do these leaks happen? How are we investigating them and how do we prevent them in the future?
Democratic focus: Democrats’ lines of inquiry will be about Russian’s possible collusion with “with the Trump political campaign and how do we prevent this from happening in the future.”
“. . . You will see individual members from the Democratic side focus on individuals involved with this issue.”
Those in the Trump orbit: Democrats likely will raise questions about Russian links and could include, Quigley said, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, former NSA chief Mike Flynn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Quigley’s bottom line: “I am just looking for a thorough, thoughtful, bipartisan, bicameral investigation that gets to the facts wherever they lead us.”
“. . . There is a lot of work involved, but we are going to get to the bottom of this.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee, also run by Republicans, is also looking into the matter of Russian interference in the election.
Does Quigley know secrets? “I suspect everyone on the Intelligence Committee has been briefed on things that are not publically known.”Tweets by @lynnsweet