Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) can try all he wants to push for Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) removal from his post as Chairman the House Intelligence Committee, but his efforts are falling on deaf ears. Another Republican leader has come forward to inform Schumer that no matter how hard he tries, the chairman of the committee is here to stay.
In an interview with FOX’s The First 100 Days on Monday, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) made it clear that he supports Nunes and isn’t willing to listen to Schumer or his liberal posse. He claimed Nunes had done nothing wrong in his position, and that Gowdy, along with the rest of the GOP, support him.
In response to Schumer, Gowdy said, “I just love it when Senator Schumer gives Republicans advice on what we ought to do.” He continued, “Devin is doing exactly what the chairman ought to do. When you have a source that has information, you handle that information safely, securely, which is exactly what he did. I wish Senator Schumer and some of the other Democrats would be more interested in authenticity and the reliability of the underlying data and not the means by which it was acquired. Whether it was the White House or Waffle House, what difference does it make if the information is reliable and authentic? It just so happens that Devin had to do it this way. So, we’re not going to take advice from Chuck Schumer on who our chairpeople ought to be.”
Gowdy’s statement comes after Democrats began calling on Nunes to recuse himself from the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
On March 21, Nunes traveled to the White House to review evidence of potential surveillance on Trump and his associates during the election. The next day, he held a press conference in which he said an unnamed individual (or individuals) showed him intelligence reports indicating the Obama administration captured communications involving Trump and/or his associates. He said it appeared to be legal, incidental collection, but nonetheless seemed “inappropriate” and troubling.
During the press conference, it was revealed that Nunes had visited the White House, a detail that was not made public before the press conference. To add to the already-alarming situation, Nunes also admitted that he had briefed President Trump on the reports before talking with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). He is Nunes’ Democratic counterpart on the committee and long-time colleague.
Explaining why he had a meeting with President Trump to discuss his findings, Nunes said, “Because what I saw had nothing to do with Russia and the Russian investigation. It has everything to do with possible surveillance activities and the president needs to know these intelligence reports are out there and I have a duty to tell him that.”
To many, Nunes’ actions were extraordinary. They raised both substantive and political questions. Was Trump being inappropriately surveilled? Were they appropriately surveilled and inappropriately unmasked? And was Nunes risking his credibility as intelligence chair by giving the administration a giant political gift?
After his press conference, the storm began.
Democrats were persistent in their efforts to get rid of Nunes. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a statement of her own regarding Nunes’ actions (because of course she did).
Pelosi, who is also the leader of the Democratic party – because they obviously don’t know any better – said, “The unprecedented comments of Chairman Nunes are an act of diversion and desperation. The Chairman’s highly irregular conduct with the White House raises serious questions about his impartiality, especially given his history as part of the Trump Transition team. Abandoning any pretense of bipartisanship, Chairman Nunes raced to the White House and to the press to perpetuate the Trump Administration’s misinformation campaign.”
She continued, “The unmasking of legally intercepted intelligence is often appropriate and necessary to understand the context of foreign intelligence information… Chairman Nunes is deeply compromised, and he cannot possibly lead an honest investigation. Congress must create a comprehensive, independent, bipartisan commission to expose the full truth of the Trump-Russia connection.”
Rep. Schiff also made a statement following Nunes’ press conference in an effort to not only call out his colleague for his actions, but to also label the information he had gathered as dismissive.
“This afternoon, Chairman Devin Nunes announced he had some form of intercepts revealing that lawfully gathered intelligence on foreign officials included information on U.S. Persons, potentially including those associated with President Trump or the president himself,” said Schiff. “In our conversation late this afternoon, the Chairman informed me that most of the names in the intercepted communications were in fact masked, but that he could still figure out the probable identity of the parties… Because the committee has still not been provided the intercepts in the possession of the Chairman, it is impossible to evaluate the Chairman’s claims… It certainly does not suggest — in any way — that the president was wiretapped by his predecessor.”
When that didn’t work, Democrats began looking into the House rules. Buried in the rules regarding the House Intelligence Committee is a section that triggers a mandatory investigation into an allegation of spilling classified information.
The rule states, “The Committee on Ethics shall investigate any unauthorized disclosure of intelligence or intelligence-related information.”
“The plain wording of the rule is that the ethics committee is required to conduct such an investigation,” said Brett Kappel, an attorney that specializes in political law. Another political lawyer, Bradley Moss, added, “If another member of Congress were to raise a written complaint about the actions of chairman Nunes, specifically his decision to disclose to the public information that is classified… the ethics committee would be required to conduct an inquiry.”
Nunes’ office said that the rule did not apply because the chairman had not revealed any classified information during his public press conference. “The Chairman did not reveal any of the specific details of the information, such as the target of the collection, and did not reveal classified information,” said Jack Langer, a Nunes spokesman.
“The way the system works is that it is classified until there is an affirmative decision to declassify it. So a leak or public disclosure doesn’t declassify it, and it doesn’t allow people who are aware of it to then discuss it publicly,” explained Susan Hennessey, a former lawyer for the National Security Agency.
After neither of those efforts convinced anyone in the GOP to stand up and do something, Schumer put his two cents in, sending out requests for lead Republicans to interfere.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) came to Nunes’ defense after Schumer asked for his input on the ordeal and for him to replace Nunes as chairman. Ryan, like Gowdy, also said that he didn’t think Nunes had done anything wrong and that he fully supported him as chairman of the committee.
In his interview and statement, Gowdy hopes to finally put an end to the ridiculous, unfounded efforts by Democrats who can’t accept reality. Who knows if it’ll work, but maybe it will at least help Democrats realize that if they put half as much work into doing their jobs as they do trying to keep the GOP from doing theirs, the world would be a much better place.