Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes says he will continue to lead the House’s probe into election interference in spite of Democratic furor over the way he’s handling the investigation.
Nunes told a pack of reporters who chased him down this morning on Capitol Hill, ‘Everything’s moving forward as-is.’
Committee Democrats want the California congressman to recuse himself from the probe following his unconventional visit to the White House last week to brief the president on classified information he had received.
‘You’ve got to go talk to them [Democrats]. That’s their problem. My colleagues are absolutely fine,’ Nunes told journalists Tuesday. ‘We’re doing a very thorough job with this investigation.’
Hammered with questions about whether he will continue to over see the Russia investigation, Nunes said, ‘Why would I not?’
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Intelligence Committee Democrats want California Rep. Devin Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling following his unconventional visit to the White House last week to brief the president on classified information he had received
Nunes did not inform the ranking Democrat on the panel, Rep. Adam Schiff, of his plans, angering the fellow lawmaker. Schiff said Monday that Nunes, a member of Donald Trump’s transition team, could not be relied on anymore to lead an independent probe
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi seconded him. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Nunes should step down from his leadership position entirely.
The storm clouds had already amassed on Tuesday, before Nunes arrived on Capitol Hill, with CNN reporting on new outrage among Democrats over the chair’s decision to cancel public hearings this week.
The committee typically meets twice a week when the House is in session. Nunes wiped the committee’s schedule away on Tuesday to hold a closed-door briefing with FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers, CNN said.
But Comey and Rogers do not want to speak to the lawmakers until they resolve their dispute over leadership of the Russia investigation, the network reported.
Nunes did not inform the ranking Democrat on the panel, Rep. Adam Schiff, that he had new intelligence last week that he planned to share with the president, angering the fellow lawmaker.
Schiff said Monday that Nunes, a member of Donald Trump’s transition team, could not be relied on to lead an independent probe. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi seconded him.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Nunes should step down from his leadership position entirely.
‘I’m sure that the Democrats do want me to quit because they know that I’m quite effective of getting to the bottom of things,’ Nunes replied on Fox News.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday at a news conference that Nunes should not recuse himself from the investigation and that he did not know where the Republican congressman obtained his information.
‘No and No,’ Ryan said, moving on.
The White House jumped out of the way of the moving train at a Wednesday briefing.
‘That is entirely up to the speaker and the membership of the House of Representatives. We’re not going to start commenting on that kind of stuff,’ Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said.
The incident is raising eyebrows among some Republicans, though.
Sen. Lindsey Graham said Tuesday on NBC’s ‘Today’ that Nunes has not adequately answered questions about the surveillance reports he says he read that contained inappropriate information about President Trump and his aides.
‘He put his objectivity in question at the very least,’ said Graham, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. ‘If he’s not willing to the tell the Democrats and Republicans on the committee who he met with and what he was told, then I think he’s lost his ability to lead.’
Graham compared Nunes’ to inept ‘Pink Panther’ detective Jacques Clouseau.
‘The problem that he’s created is he’s gone off on a lark by himself, sort of an Inspector Clouseau investigation here,’ the Republican lawmaker said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham said Tuesday on NBC’s ‘Today’ that Nunes has not adequately answered questions about the surveillance reports he says he read that contained inappropriate information about President Trump and his aides. Graham compared him to the inept detective in the ‘Pink Panther’ series
Republican Sen. John McCain, also a Senate Intel member, said right after the display that he’d never witnessed the head of a panel that traditionally acts in a bipartisan fashion behave the way Nunes did.
Nunes’ visit sparked new intrigue on Monday when it was revealed that he had been on the White House premises a day before he spoke to the president to view the information he told CNN he received from a ‘whistle blower.’
The congressman was seen at the National Security Council offices inside the Old Executive Office Building, which is on White House grounds, according to CNN.
He has refused to answer questions about his sources and the method by which he obtained the documents, saying only that the documents could not be delivered to Capitol Hill, so he had to view them at a secure location near the White House.
‘If we start talking, disclosing sources and methods, who’s ever going to come forward to the committee to bring us information?’ he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Monday.
The congressman said he did not meet with the president or any of his staffers while he was on the grounds.
‘I’m quite sure that people in the West Wing had no idea I was there,’ he stated.
Yet, Nunes insisted that he wasn’t tying to be stealthy, either.
‘If I really wanted to, I could have snuck on to the grounds late at night and probably nobody would have seen me, but I wasn’t trying to hide,’ he said. ‘In fact, I stopped to talk to several people there just along the way, including, like I said, many foreigners.’
He told Fox later in the day: ‘There was no sneaking around.’
Nunes told Bloomberg News he needed access to a computer system that had the classified information.
‘We don’t have networked access to these kinds of reports in Congress,’ he said.
He also claimed his source wasn’t a White House staffer and that he took down identifying information about the documents so he could request access to them for the rest of his committee.
Senior Democrats, however, have called for him to recuse himself from the panel’s Russia probe. House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and most Democrats on the House Intelligence committee have said he should step aside.
Reps. Jim Himes, Eric Swalwell, Mike Quigley, Jackie Speier and Schiff have said he should put someone else in charge of the investigation.
Schiff led the charge, saying in a Monday statement: ‘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.
‘This is not a recommendation I make lightly, as the Chairman and I have worked together well for several years,’ he added.
Pelosi separately said, ‘Chairman Nunes’ discredited behavior has tarnished that office. Speaker Ryan must insist that Chairman Nunes at least recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation immediately. That leadership is long overdue.’
Swalwell said Tuesday on MSNBC that Nunes’ behavior looks like a ‘cover-up to a crime’ to him.
Nunes secretly went to the White House last Tuesday – a day before he issued pronouncements about the ‘unmasking’ of Americans through surveillance – to review classified information that he and fellow committee members didn’t have access to.
‘I had to go to the White House to meet with a source. Can no one go to the White House anymore?’ Nunes complained in an interview with the Washington Post.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended Nunes’ actions at his Monday briefing as he argued that the information the congressman collected is not the same as a ‘leak’
The White House would have known that Nunes was on the property, Swalwell charged on Tuesday.
‘It’s not an internet cafe. You can’t just walk in and receive classified information,’ he said on Morning Joe. ‘Everyone in the building knows that you’re there in the building.’
HOUSE INTEL COMMITTEE POSTPONES CLOSED SESSION WITH FBI
The House Intelligence Committee will not hold on Tuesday a closed briefing with the directors of the FBI and National Security Agency, a spokesman for the committee’s Republican chairman said on Monday.
Devin Nunes, last week said he cancelled a public hearing on the committee’s investigation of Russian influence on the 2016 election because it was necessary to hold the closed session with Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers.
‘Director Comey and Adm. Rogers could not come in tomorrow as we´d hoped, so the Committee will continue to try to schedule a time when they can meet with us in closed session,’ Jack Langer, a spokesman for Nunes, said in a statement.
Swalwell said, ‘This is done because the White House wanted it to be done.’
‘And this is what a cover-up to a crime looks like. We are watching it play out right now.’
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer dodged a question about Swalwell’s comments Tuesday.
He used the question as an opportunity to deliver a lecture on reporters’ obsession with the process.
‘I I think the thing that’s important to note is there’s somewhat of a double standard when it comes to classified information. When leaks are made illegally to the press, and you all report them, the coverage focuses almost entirely on the substance of the allegation and, that are part of an illegal leak, not on the illegal nature of the disclosure, the identity of the leaks or their agenda.
‘But when the information that is occurring now – which is two individuals who are properly cleared, or three or whoever he met with, I don’t know – that they are sharing stuff that is entirely legal, with the appropriate clearances, and then there’s an obsession on the process.’
Continuing, Spicer opined that ‘backwards’ that news outlets think it’s ‘appropriate and fine’ when classified information is shared with them.
‘No one questions that, the substance of the material,’ he said. ‘And I think that it is somewhat reckless and dis– how, how the conversation over classified information is discussed without – while sort of attempting to press a false narrative that exists.’
He blasted another reporter asking about the investigation later and told her to stop shaking her head in disagreement with his assessment.
‘I’ve said it from the day that I got here until whatever, that there is no connection. You’ve “got” Russia. If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that’s a Russian connection,’ he hollered.
Spicer had defended Nunes actions at his Monday briefing as he rebuffed reporters comparing the classified information Nunes collected to the intelligence leaks the administration has furtively condemned.
Reporters pressed Trump’s spokesman to reveal Nunes’ sources – and say definitively whether the White House orchestrated the release of information.
It was also a mystery as to how Nunes even got into the White House to view the classified information in a secure area.
‘Chairman Nunes is cleared. He is the chairman of the intelligence committee. Someone who is cleared to share classified information with somebody else [who is] cleared is not a leak,’ Spicer said.
Asked who at the White House got him into the compound, Spicer responded: ‘I don’t know that members of Congress need to be cleared.’
Spicer indicated he doesn’t know whether the White House had knowledge of what information Nunes got during his clandestine visit.
‘I’m not aware of where he got it from. I know in his public statement, he has talked about having multiple sources,’ Spicer said. ‘And so I don’t know how he derived the conclusion that he did. I think that at this point, the goal would be to wait until the review that he is undertaking is completed.’
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) was at the White House the day before he cited new information about ‘unmasking’ of Americans at Trump Tower
Why Nunes would need to brief President Trump the next day on documents that were available on White House grounds was also unclear.
‘That’s a big assumption that you’re making, that that’s the only thing…he had multiple sources on multiple topics. We don’t know what he briefed him on in its totality. And so to jump to that conclusion is frankly irresponsible,’ Spicer responded.
On multiple occasions, Spicer tried to keep his distance from the situation, saying reporters should direct their questions to the Intelligence chairman.
‘I know that Chairman Nunes has confirmed that he was on White House grounds Tuesday. And frankly any questions regarding who he met with or why he was here should be referred to him,’ Spicer said.
‘I’m not going to get into who he met with or why he met with them. I think that’s something that he has been very clear [on], and I’ll let him answer. ‘He is the one who has discussed what he is reviewing, and so I will leave it up to him and not try to get in the middle of that.’
Trump’s White House has said in no uncertain terms that leaking will not be tolerated and those caught in the act will be severely punished. Comey and Rogers said the same thing in testimony before the House Intel Committee a week ago.
Spicer said Monday that situation involving Nunes is completely different.
‘I think there’s a difference between a leak and someone pursuing a review of the situation that they have determined … there’s a difference between a leak, someone leaking out to reporters for nefarious, to take classified information and share it with people who aren’t cleared,’ he said.
IT TAKES TWO: Intelligence panel vice chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) wait for the start of a House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing concerning Russian meddling in the 2016 United States election
He offered no additional information to reporters inquiring about the matter on Tuesday.
Nunes on Wednesday claimed that President Trump and his transition aides were ‘unmasked’ in spy intercepts at a press conference on Capitol Hill that came before his visit to the White House to speak with the president.
He then briefed reporters covering Trump before he spoke to the intel committee’s highest ranking Democrat, Schiff.
Nunes said conversations about Trump and members of his transition team got picked up inadvertently through ‘incidental’ surveillance, but his comments nevertheless were taken to bolster the president’s claim that his phones had been ‘tapped’ at Trump Tower. President Trump later that he felt somewhat ‘vindicated.’
At no time has Nunes suggested that Trump’s tweets were accurate. He has repeatedly said the wiretapping claims as unproven.
He apologized last week to Democrats after Schiff blasted him for not immediately sharing the information with the panel and meeting with the president about it first.
Still, Schiff said Monday that Nunes’ deeds created a need for the Republican to recuse himself.