Chairman and partisan: The dual roles of Devin Nunes raise questions about House investigation

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The questions just keep piling up and up and up:

Nunes, 43, has said he is committed to leading an impartial inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election, and search for any evidence of coordination with Trump or his associates. But Nunes, who served as an adviser on Trump’s transition team, has also at times used his position as chair of the intelligence committee in ways that seem aligned with the interests of the White House.

The committee’s course so far has raised concerns about whether it can serve the mission it was given when it was created in the 1970s, putting critical matters of national security above partisan politics.

Former Republican congressman Mike Rogers, who was Nunes’s predecessor as chairman, said that both sides have struggled so far to live up to that historic mandate. “It sows distrust, it shows they don’t have a good working foundation for really hard things,” Rogers said. “Everybody wants to find what they want to find to affirm their political position. That’s no way to run an investigation.”

Last year, Nunes repeatedly skirmished with intelligence leaders over assessments that Russia sought to help Trump win. He has sought to help the White House knock down news stories alleging close ties between Trump associates and the Kremlin. And Nunes has pushed his panel to focus on lines of inquiry — including hunting the sources of damaging news leaks — that seem more favorable to Trump.

Nunes’s latest move came Friday, when he made a flurry of announcements that on the surface signaled promising new investigative paths, including an agreement to hear testimony from Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. But to Democrats, Nunes’s actions again seemed to show the hidden agenda of the White House.

Most immediately, Nunes canceled an open hearing that had been scheduled for Tuesday with former senior officials who have battled Trump. Among them is former acting attorney general Sally Q. Yates, who was fired by Trump; former director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., who publicly disputed Trump’s wiretapping claim; and former CIA director John Brennan, who has said that Trump should “be ashamed of himself” over his behavior toward U.S. spy agencies.

When Nunes announced the hearing, it appeared that Republicans would use the session to confront the former Obama administration officials over a raft of news leaks. But after the five-hour performance by FBI Director James B. Comey before the committee last week — widely perceived as politically damaging to Trump — GOP members worried about giving Democrats another open hearing to hammer away on Russian interference in the election and any Trump campaign ties to Moscow.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, said that he suspected the cancellation was driven by “very strong pushback from the White House.”

You can read the rest at the Washington Post.

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