The top lawmaker on the House Intelligence Committee said Monday he had no evidence of President Donald Trump’s advisers communicating with Russian officials during the transition period but his panel would continue to investigate the matter.
Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes said he didn’t rule out the possibility of it surfacing in the future.
“We will continue to take evidence,” the California Republican said. “We’ll follow the facts where they lead.”
In a more than half-hour press availability, Nunes was alternately combative and dismissive of many questions, including about the propriety of his communication with the White House in contacting members of the press to help bat down a story about connections between the Trump team and Russian intelligence officials.
“How is it compromised if I’m trying to be transparent with the press? And if the White House asks me to talk to a reporter, which by the way, it was one reporter, I don’t know — if the White House asked me to talk to you, would you think that would be OK or not OK?” Nunes pressed a questioner.
Nunes’ comments didn’t go over well with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who was across town at the National Press Club with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer to discuss the president’s speech to Congress Tuesday night.
“The statement made by Chairman Nunes today, that really raises serious questions about stonewalling,” Pelosi said, continuing to push for an independent investigation into the Trump administration’s ties to Russia.
Pelosi said Nunes and congressional Republicans are saying, “We haven’t looked into it, but we know there’s nothing there.”
“Please,” she said dismissively.
Nunes said he is still concerned about a report that revealed former national security adviser Michael Flynn spoke with the Russian ambassador about the possibility of lifting sanctions issued by the Obama administration prior to the retired three-star Army general assuming the official position.
Nunes said he was more concerned with who revealed Flynn’s identity in what he called an inadvertent interception of the conversation.
“Someone had to make that decision — somebody very high up within the government would’ve had to do that or multiple people,” Nunes said. “We’re very interested in figuring out who those people were because they have questions to answer as to what laws did they use to decide to unmask Gen. Flynn’s name.”
Nunes said he had no concerns with Flynn’s actions during the call, saying he was only doing what he was supposed to — preparing the president to meet foreign leaders once he took office.
The House Intelligence Committee has been conducting a investigation into Russian activity, which has been broadened in scope to include an inquiry into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, Nunes said.
Nunes said the House chamber will conduct its own investigation independent of what his Senate counterparts are looking into.
He also characterized leaks from the White House as evidence of wrongdoing somewhere in higher levels of government.
“Well, if you look at — if you look at what’s happened, there’s been — major crimes have been committed. And what I’m concerned about is this: no one is focusing on major leaks that have occurred here,” he said.