Sen. Chuck Schumer speaking on the U.S. Senate floor.

Screencab via CNN/YouTube

Top Senate Democrat calls for removal of House Intelligence chairman

‘Without further ado, Speaker Ryan should replace Chairman Nunes,’ Sen. Chuck Schumer said from the Senate floor.

 

Dell Cameron

Tech

Over the past week, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has all but wrecked his panel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, leaving both Republicans and Democrats skeptical of its ability to probe the events impartially.

Now a high-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate is openly calling for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) to be removed from his post amid the growing crisis of confidence.

“Unfortunately, the House Intelligence Committee has come under a cloud of suspicion and partisanship,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Monday, reading from a prepared statement on the Senate floor in which he recalled the chairman’s unusual actions.

“This past week chairman Nunes broke with committee process and tradition to brief the president on information he learned but hadn’t yet shared with the committee,” said Schumer. “Now, we learned this morning that chairman Nunes was at the White House a day before that event. Doing what? We don’t know.

“Without further ado, Speaker Ryan should replace Chairman Nunes,” the Senate minority leader concluded. “If Speaker Ryan wants the House to have a credible investigation, he needs to replace Chairman Nunes.”

Earlier on Monday, it was confirmed by CNN that Nunes was on the White House grounds the day before he set up a press conference and announced that he had seen intelligence showing that the communications of Trump transition team members had been legally swept up in a surveillance net unrelated to Russia. His whereabouts that day had been somewhat of a mystery.

Nunes’ disclosure led President Donald Trump to declare he felt “somewhat vindicated” in his dubious charge that former President Barack Obama had “wiretapped” Trump Tower offices in New York City—even though Nunes, a Trump ally, made clear in his remarks to the press that he had seen no evidence to support the president’s claim. (The FBI, NSA, and U.S. Justice Department have also said as much.)

The decision by Nunes not to brief his committee, but instead run to the White House with the intelligence—widely believed to have been collected through surveillance authored under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—seemed all the more peculiar on Monday after it was revealed that Nunes met his source at the White House the day before his press conference.

Jack Langer, the chairman’s spokesman, claimed the White House was chosen as a meeting place out of necessity: “The information comprised executive branch documents that have not been provided to Congress,” he said. “Because of classification rules, the source could not simply put the documents in a backpack and walk them over the House Intelligence Committee space.”

Yet it’s increasingly clear that a Trump administration official aided Nunes in reviewing the documents inside a secure room at the White House. Nunes is charged with leading an investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, which U.S. intelligence chiefs say they are beyond certain led a targeted and malicious effort to undermine the 2016 election.

Update 6:47pm CT, March 27Rep. Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, called on Nunes to recuse himself from the Russia investigation via statement Monday evening: “[I]n 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.”

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