White House visit triggers more concern regarding Intel chair

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Democrats are demanding House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) recuse himself from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into whether Russian hacking disrupted the 2016 presidential election.

Those demands have intensified since it was revealed that Nunes visited the White House on Tuesday of last week, the night before he announced that some Trump associates may have been subjected to “incidental surveillance” before Trump took office on Jan. 20.

According to reports, “Nunes said that he went to the White House grounds because the intelligence information was not available to Congress. He said he did not meet with Trump or his aides at that time and did not coordinate the release of information with the Trump administration.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer reportedly (D-N.Y.) asked that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) remove Nunes as chairman of the Intelligence Committee, calling the trip “more than suspicious.” The committee’s ranking member, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) also called for Nunes to recuse himself from the panel’s Russia investigation.

It was reported that Nunes went alone to the White House “to view classified information brought to his attention by a source.”

Without first briefing anyone but Ryan, Nunes announced the next day that “he had seen classified information that exposed widely disseminated intelligence collected incidentally — and legally — on Trump transition team members. Nunes served as a member of the Trump transition team’s executive committee.”

It was reported that Nunes then returned to the White House to brief the president on the information he’d received.

Nunes has said that his findings had nothing to do with the Russia investigation, but that the committee is looking into the unmasking of American officials and leaking of surveillance information as part of that investigation.

Nunes has said that his Tuesday visit to the White House was “pretty common.”

“At least once a week, if not more than that, we have to go to the executive branch in order to read classified intelligence,” he told a reporter, adding that he could have made the visit under cover of darkness if he wanted to hide it, but hadn’t.

“The sun was out,” he noted, adding that he was also “quite certain that no one in the West Wing knew I was there.”

Claiming that he can no longer lead a credible investigation and needs to be replaced, Schumer accused Nunes of “falling down on the job,” telling the Senate on Monday that he “seems to be more interested in protecting the president than in seeking the truth.”

So far, Republicans have been silent on this issue, and the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating Russian election interference, seems to be staying out of the controversy.

H/T: The Hill

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