House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hammered the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee on Thursday, saying Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is simply a “stooge” for President Trump who can’t be trusted to lead an unbiased investigation into ties between Russia and the White House.
Pelosi said Nunes “acted outside the circle of respect” for his responsibility as Intelligence chairman when he went Wednesday to the press and the president with new information surrounding the panel’s probe into Russian hacking of the 2016 election and possible surveillance of Trump’s team — without telling the other members of the committee.
“By being a stooge of the president of the United States,” Pelosi charged, “he has demonstrated very clearly that there is no way there can be an impartial investigation under his leadership on that committee.”
Pelosi, who has called for months for an outside independent investigation of the Russian hacking and influence campaign, said Nunes’s actions only accentuate the need for Congress to create such a panel.
“Chairman Nunes is deeply compromised, and he cannot possibly lead an honest investigation,” she charged.
Nunes grabbed headlines Wednesday when he called a hasty press conference to announce what he characterized as “alarming” revelations that U.S. spy agencies, “on numerous occasions,” collected “incidental” information about members of Trump’s transition team as part of foreign surveillance operations.
The details gathered about those transition members had “little or no apparent foreign intelligence value,” Nunes said, and the information was “widely disseminated in a foreign intelligence report.”
Nunes stopped just short of accusing the Obama administration of spying on Trump — “I guess it all depends on one’s definition of spying,” he said — but he said he’s “alarmed” by what he’s seen.
After the unusual press conference in the Capitol, Nunes went to the White House to brief Trump on the findings. Trump, for his part, said he felt partially vindicated for claims he made earlier in the month that former President Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower.
Democrats, particularly those on the Intelligence panel, slammed Nunes as having taken a bipartisan investigation in a markedly partisan direction.
“Chairman Nunes can either lead this committee to pursue the truth or choose to serve as an advocate for President Trump,” said Rep. Joaquín Castro, a Texas Democrat who sits on the committee.
Pelosi on Thursday said Nunes’s actions won’t cause the Democrats to stop participating in the committee’s Russia probe.
“I’m just talking about him. The Democrats are fully prepared to be unbiased,” she said.
But Pelosi suggested Nunes had acted at the direction of Trump, and she was quick to note that the California Republican was himself a member of Trump’s transition team — a history that raises “questions about [his] impartiality,” she said.
“I don’t know if that was a cry for help. Or let me out of here, or what that was,” Pelosi said. “But it was highly unusual, outside the accepted behavior of a chairman of an Intelligence, or any, committee.”