The top House and Senate Democratic leaders are calling on Speaker Paul D. Ryan to strip Rep. Devin Nunes of his House Intelligence Committee chairmanship amid charges he altered a classified memo after the panel voted to release it.
At issue is Nunes’ actions regarding a classified memo compiled by House Intelligence Committee Republicans alleging the bureau overstepped its authorities early in the Russia election meddling probe. House Intelligence ranking member Adam Schiff on Wednesday night alleged that the committee’s Nunes-led majority made “material changes” to the version the panel voted, along party lines, to make public before it was handed over to the White House for President Donald Trump’s pending final call on making it public.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer both said Thursday that Nunes’ alleged changes to the version the committee voted on disqualify him from continuing in the post.
“Chairman Nunes’ deliberately dishonest actions make him unfit to serve as Chairman, and he must be immediately removed from this position,” Pelosi wrote in a Thursday letter to Ryan. “House Republicans’ pattern of obstruction and cover-up to hide the truth about the Trump-Russia scandal represents a threat to our intelligence and our national security.
“It is long overdue that you, as speaker, put an end to this charade and hold Chairman Nunes and all Congressional Republicans accountable to the oath they have taken to support and defend the Constitution, and protect the American people.”
Schumer, in a statement, said it is “clear that Chairman Nunes will seemingly stop at nothing to undermine the rule of law and interfere with the Russia probe.”
“He’s been willing to carry the White House’s water, attack our law enforcement and intelligence officials, and now to mislead his House colleagues,” Schumer said. “If Speaker Ryan cares about the integrity of the House or the rule of law, he will put an end to this charade once and for all.”
The GOP-crafted document reportedly accuses the FBI of overstepping its authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by using information from a controversial dossier on Trump and Russia when it sought and obtained a surveillance warrant on a former campaign aide.
The Nunes-crafted memo is another element of growing partisan bad blood in Washington, joining the party disagreements over immigration policy, defense and domestic spending levels, the qualifications of federal court nominees and more.
The firestorm created by the documents comes just one week before the two parties — and Trump — will have to put it all aside and find a way to avert a government shutdown.
On Monday, Pelosi called Nunes “a stooge for the White House” and blamed Speaker Paul D. Ryan, given the panel’s leaders are appointed by leadership and not elected by the caucus steering committees like those of most other panels.
“The speaker has appointed somebody who is totally irresponsible, politicizing the process,” she said earlier this week.
Trump is likely to green-light its release “pretty quick,” White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said Wednesday. Trump’s two top spokespeople have yet to respond to an inquiry about Schiff’s allegations, including a question about which version the president will make public.
The president’s top White House aides say he merely wants to release the document so the Russia investigation will be transparent and the American people will have as much information as possible to make up their own minds.
Lindsey McPherson, Niels Lesniewski and Griffin Connolly contributed to this report.