WASHINGTON — Top House Democrats on Monday called on the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to recuse himself from the panel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, thrusting the entire inquiry into jeopardy amid what they described as mounting evidence he was too close to President Trump to be impartial.
The demands followed revelations that the committee’s chairman, Representative Devin Nunes of California, had met on White House grounds with a source who showed him secret American intelligence reports. The reports, Mr. Nunes said last week, showed that Mr. Trump or his closest associates may have been “incidentally” swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies.
The new revelation that the information actually came from a meeting held on the grounds of the White House intensified questions about what prompted Mr. Nunes to make the claim about the intelligence gathering, and who gave him the information.
“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,” Mr. Schiff said on Monday night.
Still, Mr. Schiff stopped short of pulling the panel’s Democrats out of the investigation. Doing so could jeopardize Democrats’ influence over the inquiry and, importantly, their access to intelligence on possible ties between Trump associates and Moscow.
The House Intelligence Committee is running one of the three investigations into Russian interference in the election, and possible ties between Trump associates and Russia. The Senate Intelligence Committee is running its own inquiry, and the F.B.I. has carried out a broad counterintelligence investigation since July.
By most accounts, the Senate and F.B.I. investigations remain on track, unlike the House inquiry, which appears to have increasingly descended into a sideshow since its first public hearing a week ago. That was when James B. Comey, the director of the F.B.I., publicly disclosed the bureau’s investigation for the first time. Days later, Mr. Nunes made his first disclosure about Mr. Trump or his associates being caught in American intelligence gathering, prompting critics to argue that he was trying to shift attention and provide an assist to the White House at a crucial moment.
The revelation that Mr. Nunes had viewed intelligence materials on White House grounds the day before bolstering the administration’s case fueled damaging speculation that he was acting at the instruction of the president. That could prove fatal to the bipartisan investigation, which has hinged on the ability of Mr. Nunes to conduct a neutral inquiry while maintaining the trust and cooperation of Mr. Schiff.
Ms. Pelosi echoed Mr. Schiff’s call for Mr. Nunes to recuse himself, saying his behavior had “tarnished” his post and urging Speaker Paul D. Ryan to speak out.
“Speaker Ryan must insist that Chairman Nunes at least recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation immediately,” she said in a statement. “That leadership is long overdue.”
In an apparent attempt to change the subject, Mr. Trump on Monday night questioned why the House Intelligence Committee is not looking into connections between Hillary Clinton and Russian officials.
Read More (...)