Nunes and Russia-Trump Investigation

Cummings Calls on Nunes to Recuse Himself.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued the following statement calling on House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and interactions between Russia and Trump campaign advisers:

“Chairman Nunes’ refusal to share information with Democrats and Republicans alike decimates his credibility and is an embarrassment to him and the entire Congress. Speaker Ryan needs to show true leadership and immediately pull the plug on Chairman Nunes’ participation in this investigation. It is time for a truly independent commission to take over.
“Chairman Nunes is now refusing to disclose basic information about his communications with the White House about this investigation, which raises even more troubling concerns about his impartiality.
“The claim by Chairman Nunes and Sean Spicer that no one in the White House knew about his visit cannot be true. Chairman Nunes was not a White House fence jumper — he was invited in.
“The Old Executive Office Building is part of the White House complex, and Chairman Nunes needed clearance to enter. If Chairman Nunes went to a SCIF in the National Security Council — where his former staffer on the committee now works — this is not a ‘whistleblower’ situation or a question of intelligence ‘sources and methods.’”

Attorney Michael Ellis, who worked for Nunes as General Counsel on the intelligence committee, now works as the Deputy Legal Advisor for the National Security Council, as well as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Associate Counsel to the President in the White House Counsel’s Office.

According to press reports, “A White House official and spokesman for Nunes declined to comment on whether Ellis was involved in providing information to Nunes,” and “White House press secretary Sean Spicer insisted that White House officials were not aware of Nunes’ secret trip to meet his source and referred all questions to Nunes’ office.”

When Attorney General Sessions recused himself from the Justice Department’s Russia-Trump investigation, he explained the standard he used:

“I have met with senior officials shortly after arriving here. We evaluated the rules of ethics and recusal. I have considered the issues at stake. … I asked for their candid and honest opinion about what I should do about investigations, certain investigations. And my staff recommended recusal. They said that since I had involvement with the campaign, I should not be involved in any campaign investigation. I have studied the rules and considered their comments and evaluation. I believe those recommendations are right and just. Therefore, I have recused myself in the matters that deal with the Trump campaign.”

There is a growing bipartisan chorus calling for Nunes to step aside from this Committee’s investigation because he is no longer capable of conducting an impartial, credible investigation. An increasing number of Republicans, Democrats, and editorial boards now agree that Congress must act on the Swalwell-Cummings legislation to create an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate how Russia interfered in the 2016 election and recommend solutions for preventing it from happening again:

· Republican Senator John McCain: “It’s a bizarre situation, and what I think, the reason why I’m calling for this select committee or a special committee, is I think that this back-and-forth and what the American people have found out so far that no longer does the Congress have credibility to handle this alone, and I do not say that lightly.” When asked specifically if it should be an independent commission, McCain said, “I would agree to a commission. I would prefer a select committee — either one.” When asked if Nunes should reveal his White House source, McCain said: “Absolutely. I can’t imagine why not. And I also believe that the entire Committee should be engaged.”

  • Republican Senator Lindsey Graham: “The problem that he’s created is he’s gone off on a lark by himself, sort of an Inspector Clouseau investigation here, trying to find some unmasking information about collection incidental with the Trump campaign and some foreign agent outside of Russia. I think the only way this thing can be repaired is if he tells his colleagues on the House intel committee who he met with and what he saw and let them look at the same information.”
  • Republican Governor Mike Huckabee: “I don’t think a congressional investigation will work because it’s going to be partisan; both sides are going to accuse the other of not being fair. It’s going to require an independent investigation because long gone are the days of the Sam Irwins and Howard Bakers of the world who, on a bipartisan basis, look for truth.”
  • Former Republican Congressman Joe Scaroborough: “If the Republican Party wants to do what is best for this country and its national security, they will remove Devin Nunes as Intel Chairman.”
  • David Ignatius: “It’s going to be very hard for Republicans on the Committee, even if they want to do the right thing, to operate in a bipartisan way so long as Nunes is there really, in effect, leading the President’s defense.”
  • New York Times Editorial Board: “Mr. Nunes, who served on Mr. Trump’s transition team, was never a suitable choice to lead a congressional investigation into the role the Russian government played in last year’s election. He is clearly more interested in having his committee examine the manner in which American intelligence agencies collected information about the Trump campaign than in determining what that information shows.”
  • USA Today Editorial Board: “Congress must show it’s capable of following this path of suspicion, whether it leads nowhere or to the Oval Office. That requires putting the inquiry in the hands of people with reputations for integrity and independence, not administration apologists.”
  • Los Angeles Times Editorial Board: “Nunes shouldn’t be briefing the president whose election campaign his committee is expected to scrutinize. Unless the chairman can reassure the public and his colleagues, including the panel’s Democrats, that his freelancing days are over, the public may look elsewhere — the Senate Intelligence Committee or a proposed 9/11-style independent commission — for a trustworthy account.”
  • Washington Post Editorial Board: “We’ve said before that it was doubtful that an investigation headed by Mr. Nunes into Russia’s interference in the election could be adequate or credible. The chairman’s contradictory and clownish grandstanding makes that a certainty. His committee’s investigation should be halted immediately — and Mr. Nunes deserves to be subject to the same leaking probe he demanded for the previous disclosures.”
  • Chairman Nunes’ hometown paper editorial: “Americans can distinguish between a hard-nosed fact-finder and a surrogate who shares information with a White House under FBI investigation. Bring on the bipartisan special select committee — as was done with Benghazi — and a special prosecutor.”
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: “The Chair of the House Intelligence has a serious responsibility to the Congress and to the Country. 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.”
  • Senate Intelligence Committee Member Sen. Angus King: “I think the actions of the House chair yesterday certainly call into question the ability of that committee to perform an independent investigation”
  • Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff: “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.”
  • Intelligence Committee Member Jackie Speier: “Through his bizarre and partisan actions over the last week, Chairman Nunes has demonstrated to the entire nation why he is unfit to lead our critical investigation into ties between President Trump’s Administration and Moscow.”
  • Intelligence Committee Member Rep. Eric Swalwell: “It’s time for Devin Nunes to leave this investigation, let alone lead it. He should be gone. This is what a cover-up to a crime looks like. We’re watching it play out right now.”
  • Intelligence Committee Member Rep. Jim Himes: “The behavior of the chairman has cast a real question mark over the commission.”
  • House Ethics Committee Ranking Member Ted Deutch: “Well, it’s hard to see how the Intelligence Committee can move forward and do the job that it needs to do on behalf of the American people when the chairman behaves in a way that seems to put partisanship above getting all of the facts here. When the chairman of the committee decided to share some information, first with the speaker, then rushing to the White House to share it with the president — information that appears to be classified information — it makes it hard for people to have confidence in his ability to move forward. That’s why there needs to be an independent investigation.”
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