Republican Trey Gowdy acted behind closed doors like a lawyer for President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, during questioning Tuesday by the House Intelligence Committee, said the top Democrat on the panel.
“Mr. Gowdy took the role as a second attorney for Mr. Kushner,” Adam Schiff of California told reporters.
Gowdy declined to comment Wednesday on Schiff’s remarks. But he said a day earlier that Democrats on the Intelligence panel, which is looking into potential connections between Russia and the Trump campaign, uncovered “zero” new or revelatory information in more than three hours of questioning. Gowdy of South Carolina said that Democrats “even ran out of questions.”
Such is the partisan discord that has marked the work of a key congressional committee charged with investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign and potential ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
The Republican chairman of the committee, Devin Nunes of California, was forced to step aside from leading the Russia inquiry in April amid criticism that he shared raw intelligence with Trump. Gowdy is one of several lawmakers helping run the inquiry.
Members of both parties described Kushner, a top adviser to Trump, as cooperative during the closed-door interview. But neither side would describe the substance of his answers.
Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., said after the interview of Kushner that he was credible. “What he said publicly is the same thing as he said to us,” Rooney said.
Schiff said the information obtained in questioning Kushner left Democrats on the committee with “a number of things to follow up” but didn’t elaborate. Schiff said he and other Democrats also were hampered because they didn’t have a number of documents that they had wanted to see prior to the interview.
Kushner had contended in publicly released verbal and written statements on Monday — before the House interview — that he was not involved in any collusion and acted properly. He said he had four contacts with Russian government officials during the 2016 campaign and transition and that they were unremarkable.
Democrats on the panel had gone into the meeting intending to press him on some of those meetings, including one with a Russian banker, as well as any attempt to establish a back-channel with the Russian government.
When Kushner and lawmakers emerged from the meeting, Democrats said Gowdy ran interference on behalf of Kushner during the questioning. Gowdy is also chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, a key watchdog role over the Trump administration.
Gowdy played a different role during the Obama administration. As chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, he oversaw 11 hours of questioning of Hillary Clinton in October 2015 that Democrats said was motivated by partisan politics. The panel was examining the administration’s response to the 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
Kushner is represented by Abbe Lowell, a leading criminal defense lawyer. But Democrats said Gowdy — one of the main Republican questioners in interviews for the committee — acted on Tuesday as if he were on the Kushner defense team.
Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut, a top Democrat on the committee, said Democrats got hit with “pushback” from Gowdy to their questions. Himes said Gowdy repeatedly complained that Democrats’ questions were repetitive and sought to block follow-up queries.
Gowdy spokeswoman Amanda Gonzalez said in an e-mail, “The minority had an opportunity to ask all of their questions. No one ‘blocked’ any of their questions — they were simply encouraged to keep all questions relevant.”