The House Intelligence Committee has canceled all meetings this week as its chairman, Devin Nunes, rejects Democratic calls to recuse himself from the committee’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“Everything is political; people say a lot of things around here and it’s fine, it’s politics,” Nunes told reporters just moments after his colleague, ranking Democrat committee member Congressman Adam Schiff released a statement calling for Nunes to step down.
“This is not a recommendation I make lightly, as the chairman and I have worked together well for several years,” Schiff wrote. He added it would be difficult for the public to maintain faith in the investigation if it could not “be objectively investigated or overseen by the chairman.”
Met on White House grounds
Nunes met a source on White House grounds before making his disclosure last week that President Donald Trump was caught up in “incidental” surveillance, his spokesman, Jack Langer, said.
Langer told reporters Monday that Nunes wanted “to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source.”
Previously, Nunes would not say where he met his source, and has still not revealed the identity of the source.
“He did the exact right thing from beginning to end and there really is a concerted effort out to undermine him,” Congressman Peter King, a Republican from New York, told VOA of Nunes’ actions. “He’s really on to something, that’s why.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling on House Speaker Paul Ryan to replace Nunes as head of the intelligence committee, while House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said the speaker should at least insist Nunes is not involved in the Russia investigation.
“He has not been operating like someone who is interested in getting to the unvarnished truth,” Schumer said of Nunes. “His actions look like those of someone who is interested in protecting the president and his party.”
But King said members of the committee stand by Nunes.
“Obviously, the president had nothing to do with it; the information is totally controlled, and it did not leak out at all,” King said.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Monday he does not know where Nunes got his information, but said Nunes has said he did not meet with anyone from the White House staff.
Spicer said Nunes also has made clear that he had multiple sources for his allegations.
When asked if the meeting creates a perception problem between Nunes and the White House, Spicer said Nunes was doing his job to investigate allegations of surveillance and was being upfront with journalists about his activities.
Last week, Nunes announced that he received information from an undisclosed source that conversations by Trump and his staff had been swept up in “incidental collection” activities by U.S. spy agencies targeting foreign agents.
Nunes spoke with reporters and the president about the material without informing any of the other 21 members of the House Intelligence Committee, angering Democrats on the committee who questioned Nunes’ credibility.
Nunes later apologized to the committee for not first telling them about the information.
Trump, who earlier this month tweeted unsubstantiated allegations that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped his campaign while he ran for office, has said he was “somewhat vindicated” by Nunes’ statement about the surveillance.
Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey has said that there is no information to support Trump’s allegation that Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower in New York. Trump has asked Congress to investigate.