House Intelligence Chair Rep. Devin Nunes told reporters Wednesday that his committee would continue its investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election “with or without” cooperation from its Democratic members.
Nunes made the comments after a number of top Democrats — including the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Adam Schiff, as well as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — all called for Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation.
The calls came after Nunes met with a source on White House grounds to discuss intelligence that he later disseminated to the press and the president before briefing other committee members. He claimed the intelligence was not related to his committee’s investigation.
He said the evidence showed that the intelligence community had incidentally collected information on the Trump transition team, and possibly Trump himself, during the postelection transition period. That collection, he added, was not related to Russia.
But Democrats and some Republicans were dismayed by Nunes’ actions, saying that by going to the White House grounds he delegitimized the nonpartisan investigation he was tasked with leading.
Nunes took questions Wednesday after Rep. Walter Jones became the first Republican lawmaker to ask for the chairman, who was a member of the Trump transition team himself, to recuse himself from the investigation.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday that he would not ask for Nunes to recuse himself, and Nunes said the calls for recusal or removal from the committee were “politics.”
Nunes said Wednesday that “we’re beginning to figure out who’s actually serious about the investigation.”
“Because it appears like the Democrats aren’t really serious about this investigation,” he said.
He added: “I mean, we always want to keep the committee bipartisan. But at the end of the day, we’re going to do an investigation with ot without them, and if they want to participate that’s fine, but the facts of the matter are pretty clear.”
Nunes was referring to Democrats on the committee not providing a witness list of whom they wanted to call to testify. He also claimed Democrats didn’t sign a letter to FBI Director James Comey, who was asked by Nunes to return before the committee to testify again.
Democratic committee aides told Business Insider that both claims from Nunes were inaccurate. One aide said Democrats provided a tentative list of witnesses to the Republicans on Tuesday. Additionally, the aide said, Democrats offered to schedule both the closed hearing and open hearing next week but had yet to hear back.
“This is the first any of us have heard of these claims,” said another committee aide.
A spokesperson for Rep. Mike Quigley, a Democrat on the committee, seconded the aides, saying “neither of those claims are accurate.”
“Democrats are 100% committed to this investigation,” Tara Vales, the Quigley spokesperson, told Business Insider. “A closed meeting with Comey and [NSA Director Mike] Rogers and an open hearing with [former Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper, [former CIA Director John] Brennan, and [former acting Attorney General Sally] Yates, all of whom were ready and willing to testify on Tuesday, are not mutually exclusive. Democrats welcome the opportunity to hear from Comey at any time, but that cannot take the place of an open hearing.”
Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.
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