The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee would not say on Tuesday whether he had stepped aside from the committee’s probe into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, nor would he say whether he would continue to issue subpoenas related to the matter.
“Good try,” Nunes told a CNN reporter, the network reported, after the reporter asked the congressman if he had truly stepped aside from the investigation, and if he would continue to sign subpoenas.
CNN’s Tom LoBianco tweeted the exchange:
“I’m not going to talk about Intelligence Committee business,” Nunes reportedly said, asked again about his role in the committee’s investigation into Russian election meddling.
On June 1, Nunes issued subpoenas to the National Security Agency, the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency, demanding information on the how the names of Trump campaign and transition staffers who communicated with Russians had become un-redacted, or “unmasked,” in intelligence reports.
An unnamed Republican congressional aide told the Wall Street Journal that Nunes’ unmasking investigation was considered separate from the Russia probe.
The leading Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), said he was not consulted about the subpoenas, and that they were a violation of what he called Nunes’ “recusal” from the investigation.
Nunes, in fact, only claimed on April 6 to have allowed other committee Republicans to “temporarily take charge of the Committee’s Russia investigation,” a distinction an unnamed Republican aide pointed out to CNN.
That announcement came after the House Ethics Committee opened an investigation into Nunes’ potential mishandling of classified information, and after revelations that Nunes’ source for allegations that Obama administration officials had unmasked Trump campaign officials intelligence reports were officials in the Trump administration.
National security experts have repeatedly asserted that Obama officials’ unmasking of Trump campaign associates in intelligence reports was appropriate, and not the “smoking gun” that Nunes and Trump have made it out to be.
The Washington Post reported Friday that Nunes’ committee had itself requested “five to six unmaskings of U.S. organizations or individuals related to Trump or Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton between June 2016 and January 2017.”
On June 5, Nunes told the Daily Beast that his initial subpoenas were “only the beginning. There are many more officials that we have concerns about abusing the intelligence programs.”
On May 19, CNN reported that Nunes was continuing to review intelligence related to Russia, and that Democrats considered it a violation of the spirit of his insistence that he was stepping aside from the probe.
This post has been updated.
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