House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, both called for Chairman Devin Nunes to recuse himself from the panel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
“Speaker Ryan must insist that Chairman Nunes at least recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation immediately,” Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “That leadership is long overdue.”
The calls for recusal are a stunning breakdown for a committee that has traditionally operated in a bipartisan manner. Schiff (D-Calif.) was joined Monday in calling for recusal by other Intelligence Committee Democrats, including Reps. Jim Himes of Connecticut, Eric Swalwell of California and Mike Quigley of Illinois — a sign that Nunes has lost the backing of his panel’s minority in running the investigation.
In the Senate, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday that Nunes should lose his chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee.
Schiff’s move came after Nunes acknowledged Monday that he was on the White House grounds last week before he claimed to have seen evidence that Trump transition officials were inappropriately monitored by intelligence agencies. Meanwhile, Democrats said they still had not been provided access to the information upon which Nunes based his allegation.
“After much consideration, and in light of the chairman’s admission that he met with his source of information at the White House, I believe that the chairman should recuse himself from any further involvement in the Russia investigation, as well as any involvement in oversight of matters pertaining to any incidental collection of the Trump transition, as he was also a key member of the transition team,” Schiff said in a statement. “This is not a recommendation I make lightly, as the chairman and I have worked together well for several years.”
In his own statement, Swalwell said Nunes “should no longer be anywhere near this investigation.”
Despite these calls from Democrats, Nunes almost certainly will not lose his gavel or his control of the committee’s Russia probe.
The California Republican said Monday he kept House Speaker Paul Ryan fully informed about what he was up to, including his decision to brief the White House on his new evidence last Wednesday despite the fact that he is supposed to be leading an investigation into ties between aides to Donald Trump and Moscow.
A spokeswoman for Ryan, AshLee Strong, said Monday that the Wisconsin Republican “has full confidence that Chairman Nunes is conducting a thorough, fair and credible investigation.”
Earlier in the day, a spokesman for Nunes confirmed the intelligence chairman was on the “White House grounds” last week on the day before he went public with his claim that Trump transition officials were improperly monitored following November’s presidential election.
“Chairman Nunes met with his source at the White House grounds in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source,” said the spokesman, Jack Langer. “The chairman is extremely concerned by the possible improper unmasking of names of U.S. citizens, and he began looking into this issue even before President Trump tweeted his assertion that Trump Tower had been wiretapped.”
Nunes’ meetings at the White House have increased suspicions among Democrats that the congressman’s decision to go public with his allegation was orchestrated by the Trump administration to take some heat off Trump for his much-maligned claim that President Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower in the run-up to the election.
In an interview with CNN, Nunes denied that he coordinated with the White House.
“I think people in the West Wing had no idea that I was there,” Nunes said. “Look, I go over there a lot, go over there often for meetings and briefings to meet foreign dignitaries, all those sorts of things.”
He declined to say who cleared him to enter White House grounds.
In his statement Monday, Schiff said he believes “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.”
“As to the merits of the chairman’s underlying claim, none of the committee members — Democrats or Republicans — has seen the relevant documents, now almost a week later,” the California Democrat continued. “Whether the documents support the argument that names were improperly unmasked or distributed, it is impossible to judge, but one thing is very clear: There was no legitimate justification for bringing that information to the White House instead of the committee. That it was also obtained at the White House makes this departure all the more concerning.”
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