Devin Nunes in the crosshairs: Dems call on Intelligence chair to step down, as accusations fly about political motivations

The Republican chairman's actions have rendered the House Intelligence Committee unable to operate

Published March 28, 2017 1:30PM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has been under fire since his controversial decision to go to the White House grounds and subsequently declare that members of President Donald Trump's transition team had been caught in "incidental" surveillance by the intelligence community.

Now that heat is impairing the committee's ability to do its job, prompting many to call for Nunes' recusal or resignation as its chairman — and implying nefarious motives motivated many of his decisions.

Calls for Nunes to step aside have come from many Democrats. The committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, told CNN on Monday that "we've reached the point, after the events of this week, where it would be very difficult to maintain the credibility of the investigation if the chairman did not recuse himself from matters involving either the Trump campaign or the Trump transition team of which he was a member."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent CNN a statement on Monday saying that "the Chair of the House Intelligence has a serious responsibility to the Congress and to the country. Chairman Nunes' discredited behavior has tarnished that office. (House) Speaker (Paul) Ryan must insist that Chairman Nunes at least recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation immediately. That leadership is long overdue."

Ryan has so far refused to call for Nunes to step down, instead expressing "full confidence" in his ability to lead a "thorough, fair, and credible investigation." That said, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told NBC's "Today" show on Tuesday that if Nunes is "not willing to tell the Democrats and the Republicans on the committee who he met with and what he was told, he has lost his ability to lead, and the Democrats on the committee are becoming prosecutors."

The House Intelligence Committee has decided to scrap all of its meetings this week as it handles the Nunes controversy, with Democratic member Rep. Jackie Speier of California telling CNN's "New Day" on Tuesday that "I don't think he can just recuse himself and still chair the committee. I think that the writing is on the wall. It might make a good spy novel. It doesn't make a good investigation."

Meanwhile, many Democrats are accusing Nunes of participating in a White House cover-up. Committee member Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Tuesday that "this is done because the White House wanted it to be done. And this is what a cover-up to a crime looks like. We are watching it play out right now."

He added, "If this was done the proper way, they could have brought it over, shared it with both parties of the committee."

On Monday night, former Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency chief of staff Jeremy Bash told MSNBC's Brian Williams that there may have been something even more sinister behind Nunes decision to cancel hearings in which former acting attorney general Sally Yates would have testified.

"The hearing this week was gonna hear from Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general, and I'm told that she had some very interesting things to tell the committee, to tell the public, about when she told the White House counsel that Mike Flynn had in fact been lying to the vice president," Bash said. "And she was only going to be able to speak those things in the context of a congressional hearing, and so the White House and the chairman needed to shut her down."

He added, "This was an elaborately choreographed gag order on Sally Yates."


By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Devin Nunes Donald Trump House Intelligence Committee Russia