“There’s nothing wrong that Devin has done except once again to get accused of something,” McCarthy said of his fellow California Republican.
The Republican leader’s comments came during a press conference Tuesday evening a few hours after Democrats released a report summarizing evidence the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees compiled in an investigation of whether President Donald Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals. The report revealed phone logs showing Nunes was speaking to key Trump associates involved in the Ukraine matter while committees were investigating it.
The logs, provided to the committees by AT&T, show that Nunes spoke several times to Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani around the time he was publicly attacking former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and arranging a trip to the country to look into matters involving former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
In April, Nunes talked to Giuliani’s associate Lev Parnas, whose lawyer has claimed he was specifically tasked by Trump to investigate the Bidens’ activities in Ukraine. Parnas was indicted in October on campaign finance fraud charges.
Nunes had not previously disclosed his contact with Giuliani and Parnas.
McCarthy, when asked about the calls, said it “doesn’t raise me any concerns.”
“I don’t have a problem with Devin talking to individuals,” he said.
McCarthy, in his defense of Nunes, referenced a CNN report that the Intelligence ranking member traveled to Vienna in 2018 to meet with Viktor Shokin, a former Ukrainian prosecutor who was dismissed from his post after pressure from the U.S. and Biden.
“The answer was no,” McCarthy said, answering his own question about whether that report was true.
Nunes has sued CNN for defamation, although the report was based on Parnas’s lawyer saying his client was willing to testify under oath that Nunes traveled to Vienna to meet with Shokin.
McCarthy did not provide a defense for Nunes’ phone calls with Parnas and Giuliani other than to say he can talk to whoever he wants. He said it will be up to Nunes to decide whether to disclose what the discussions were about.
McCarthy, asked after the press conference if he had spoken to Nunes about the phone calls, said he had not.
“I haven’t talked to him about the phone calls,” he said. “I talked to him about the travel.”
Asked then how he knew Nunes did nothing wrong McCarthy responded, “I’ve known Devin for more years that we’ve ever even served together. I’ve known Devin before we’ve gotten here. I’ve known Devin through this whole time and what he’s been able to do and not do.”
Oversight ranking member Jim Jordan, who along with Nunes managed the Republican questioning and examination of evidence during the fact-finding stage of the impeachment inquiry, was similarly dismissive about the call logs.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with talking to people on the phone,” the Ohio Republican said. “Lots of members of Congress have talked with Giuliani.”
Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told reporters earlier Tuesday he would reserve comment about Nunes’ calls.
“It is I think deeply concerning that at a time when the president of the United States was using the power of his office to dig up dirt on a political rival that there may be evidence that there were members of Congress complicit in that activity,” the California Democrat said at a press conference after releasing the report.
Schiff went on to say there was a lot more to learn, suggesting it may be the role of others to evaluate member behavior, but he called the allegations “deeply concerning.”
Nunes and other Republicans have criticized Schiff, alleging he knows the identity of and possibly coordinated with the whistleblower, whose complaint started the impeachment inquiry. Schiff has emphatically denied those claims.
Republicans’ calls for Schiff to be transparent put them in an uncomfortable position, now that there’s evidence Nunes could have been forthcoming about but did not disclose.
Still, McCarthy turned the focus on Schiff when asked if Nunes should have disclosed his calls with Giuliani and Parnas upfront.
“Should Adam Schiff disclose who he’s talked to and when?” he said. “If Adam Schiff is worried about people putting phone call logs out, why doesn’t he put his own? Why doesn’t he sit down and tell us what he said to the whistleblower?”
Katherine Tully-McManus and Patrick Kelley contributed to this report.