Lawyer says Trump administration moved to squelch testimony

"Last week, U.S. Representative Devin Nunes - a member of Donald Trump's transition team and chair of the House Intelligence Committee - disclosed possible information about alleged White House surveillance to members of the press and the White House, prior to sharing it with members of his own committee", reads the petition. Some Democrats have accused Nunes of trying to undermine the investigation's independence from the White House and called on him to recuse himself from it.

"The American people should have had the benefit of an open hearing", Schiff said, noting the the initial public hearing brought Comey's acknowledgment that the FBI was investigating possible collusion between Trump campaign figures and Russian Federation.

In a piece also published Tuesday, Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker asserted that the White House has been coordinating with Nunes.

Last week, Nunes announced he obtained "dozens of reports" showing the US intelligence community - through its "normal foreign surveillance" - "incidentally collected information about USA citizens involved in the Trump transition".

The congressman said that his committee has invited Comey to testify in private but has not received a reply.

As Gary Kasparov, the Russian dissident and former world chess champion, said in a tweet: "The house is on fire, Trump is running around with a box of matches, and the GOP demands to know who called the fire department".

Mr Nunes, who has given no explanation for cancelling the hearing, was already facing calls to step down from leading his committee's inquiry.

"How and when exactly did the White House encourage [Yates] to testify?"

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Nunes responded only by saying, cartoonishly, that "the investigation continues", and refused to comment on whether it might be time for him to recuse himself, before climbing into his Mystery Machine and driving away.

California representative Eric Swalwell, a member of the committee, has called on Mr Nunes to step down from chairing the investigation into whether Russian hackers had interfered with the presidential elections past year.

It was supposed to feature testimony from former acting Attorney General Sally Yates about the Justice Department's investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

"I hope she testifies", press secretary Sean Spicer said. The report claims her testimony might contradict White House statements.

Also Wednesday, Nunes told NBC News that "it appears like the Democrats aren't really serious" about the probe. "I've been around for quite a while and I've never heard of such thing". It is highly unusual for a committee chairman and ranking member not to coordinate meetings related to an investigation.

"I'd like to know first what the goal of that would be", Nunes told a reporter who asked if he planned to recuse himself from probes involving Russian Federation or Trump.

Democrat Jim Himes of CT told the broadcaster MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program that Nunes has scrapped all meetings and open hearings that were scheduled for this week.

The row comes as the House continues to investigate claims that the Kremlin had sought to interfere with the United States election to help Mr Trump's campaign.

  • Delia Davidson