- An MSNBC analyst asked two Democratic lawmakers if they believed Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was a “Russian agent.”
- The lawmakers both demurred, responding that they believe it’s more likely that Nunes is trying to protect President Donald Trump.
- Nunes is at the center of a controversy involving a secret memo that some fear could undermine the special counsel’s Russia investigation.
MSNBC’s John Heilemann asked two Democratic lawmakers in separate interviews on Tuesday whether they believed Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was “compromised by the Russians.”
“I want to ask you a question that under almost any other circumstances would be ridiculous and absurd, but under these circumstances I think is actually warranted,” Heilemann first said to Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat.
“Is it possible that the Republican chairman of the House intel committee has been compromised by the Russians? Is it possible that we actually have a Russian agent running the House intel committee on the Republican side?”
Murphy demurred, responding that he hoped that wasn’t the case and had “no information to suggest that it is.” But Heilemann pressed him further, arguing that Nunes’ behaviour suggested otherwise.
Nunes has been at the center of a political firestorm surrounding the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Nunes has pushed for the release of a secret memo he authored, which reportedly alleges that the FBI and Justice Department officials abused their power in surveilling Carter Page, a former Trump campaign associate.
The Justice Department has warned that releasing the memo without an official review would be “extraordinarily reckless,” but Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted Monday to release it anyway.
Democrats, meanwhile, fear that the memo omits crucial information and relies on cherry-picked facts that could undermine the credibility of the Russia probe if Republicans release it without context.
“[Nunes is] behaving like someone who’s been compromised, and there are people in the intelligence community, and others with great expertise in this area, who look at him and say, ‘That guy’s been compromised,'” Heilemann told Murphy.
Though Murphy responded that Nunes’ actions appear to be guided by a motivation to protect President Donald Trump, Heilemann pressed forward with similar questions in a later interview with Rep. Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat.
“It’s an impolitic question and one that, again, would have seemed absurd in almost any other circumstance. But Congressman Nunes, your chairman – it is suggested not by me, but by people who follow these matters closely – could possibly be someone who’s been compromised by the Russians,” Heilemann said. “Is that something you consider a possibility?”
Like Murphy, Swalwell didn’t speculate on ties between Nunes and Russians. He said he believed Nunes was more likely compromised by the White House.
“He certainly seems to be willing to risk the republic to protect the president, to risk the rule of law to help the president’s case in the Russian investigation,” Swalwell said.
Watch a clip of the exchanges below:
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