Pressure mounts for House Intel chair to recuse himself from Russia probe

UPDATE — 4:02 p.m. EDT: Responding to comments by Congressman Devin Nunes Wednesday that House Democrats “aren’t really serious” about the Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, a spokesman for Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) pointed to a hearing with witnesses requested and agreed to by both parties that were “cancelled abruptly and unilaterally by the Chair [Nunes].”

The canceled hearing, scheduled for Tuesday, was set to feature key witnesses, including former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan.

Chairman Nunes was a member of Donald Trump’s presidential transition team.

 

Amid revelations House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) met with Trump administration officials to deliberate over reports indicating Trump aides were under incidental observation from U.S. intelligence agents, calls from Democrats demanding Nunes recuse himself from any role in examining Trump transition team’s ties to the Kremlin have grown steadily.

The committee Nunes chairs has been tasked with probing alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, specifically whether then-candidate Trump and campaign officials colluded with the Kremlin to aid his bid for the White House.

Nunes has dismissed demands he step aside from his role in the inquiry.

Nunes admitted he met with White House officials to discuss intelligence reports which allege Trump transition aides had been incidentally captured during U.S. surveillance operations.  Nunes later publicly stated Trump aides had been surveilled, much to the consternation of Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Irked at Nunes’ contention White House documents were not provided to Intelligence Committee members prior to public statements over security concerns, calls for the chairman to recuse himself are led by California’s Adam Schiff, the committee’s ranking Democrat.

“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.”

Joining Rep. Schiff in calling for Mr. Nunes to step aside are fellow committee members Jackie Speier, Eric Swalwell, 170 Democratic officials and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Despite the calls for Nunes to step aside, the committee chairman has received backing from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who flatly rejected Democrats’ demands, telling reporters “no and no” to inquiries over Nunes’ role in the probe and whether Nunes should recuse himself.

Some Democrats have subsequently called for the establishment of an independent commission to study Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.

 

[McClatchy DC] [RT America] [Reuters] [Politico] [Photo courtesy Getty Images via CNN]