While Americans are reeling from the high-drama death of Trumpcare the probe into Russian involvement in American politics is being slowly snuffed out by one of its lead investigators: Devin Nunes.
House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes’ decision to cancel an open hearing with former Obama administration officials has left lawmakers with a second week lacking any public actions on the probe into impropriety in the connections the Trump administration has to Russia.
Nunes, himself a member of Trump’s transition team, has faced accusations from both Democrats and Republicans that he’s not overseeing a fair and independent investigation and failing to conduct proper oversight.
Nunes’ fellow Californian, Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff, called it an effort to “choke off” public information about the probe. Schiff also had choice words about Nunes briefing the President on evidence not presented to the Committee, which he called “obstruction of justice”.
And while some people with ties to the investigation, like former Trump campaign manager and pro-Russia lobbyist Paul Manafort, have offered to testify before the committee, Nunes insistence on voluntary testimony means that these hearings could be closed-door sessions, or even have pre-established off-limits topics, which Schiff argues defeats the point.
“That effort to defend the indefensible has led us down this terrible rabbit hole and threatens the integrity of the only investigation [into Russian meddling] that’s authorized in the House,” said Schiff.
Schiff remains optimistic that the House can conduct a credible, bipartisan investigation, however said Friday that what’s needed is an independent, special process. Senator John McCain agreed, saying a special committee was needed as Congress had lost all credibility already.
A Quinnipiac University poll found 66% of Americans agree that an independent investigation is needed, and 65% think the issue of Russian interference is important.
Former Congressman, moderate Republican and MSNBC Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough went a step further, tweeting that removing Nunes as Intelligence Chair was in the best interest of the American people and national security.
Another California Democrat, Rep. Eric Swalwell, told reporters that Nunes betrayed his duty to conduct an independent investigation.
“We were attacked by Russia this past election, and our constituents are counting on us to get to the bottom of what happened,” Swalwell said to PBS News Hour’s Hari Sreenivasan. “I think what we need to do is, he needs to find an on-ramp, because this investigation must continue to go forward. And he must work with Democrats.”
Swalwell also said: “We want to illuminate the obstruction. We want to preserve our access.”
But for all the clamor and demand for an independent investigation and saber-rattling over Nunes’ legitimacy, its unlikely Democrats will walk away from the House probe.
“Democrats feel that if we’re not engaged in this investigation, no one will be,” said Schiff. “In the minority, the only power we have is the power of public persuasion.”
So, unless and until a special commission is established to probe into Russian tampering with American politics, the Democrats are stuck with Nunes and his tight grip on public information.