OPIOID SERIES:

GOP lawmaker calls for select committee on Russia

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) told The Hill on Wednesday that he supports empaneling a bipartisan independent select committee to investigate Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election as questions over House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes's (R-Calif.) handling of the issue continue to mount.

Curbelo said a congressional select committee — which would work independently of the House and Senate Intelligence committees — would “give greater credibility and independence to the investigation.”

But Curbelo, who represents a South Florida swing-district targeted by Democrats in the midterms, is not calling for Nunes to recuse himself. He expressed confidence in Nunes’s handling of the investigation, calling him a “man of great integrity” who has “a lot of respect on both sides of the aisle.” 

And Curbelo does not support bringing in a special prosecutor, a proposal backed by many Democratic lawmakers.

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“I’ve said ... that [we need] a select committee in the Congress," he said. "I don’t think you need a special prosecutor or anything like that, but a select committee in the Congress that is independent, that doesn’t respond to the leadership in either party, to dig into all these issues and get to the truth ... both sides want to know how we got to this point. Let’s empower Republicans and Democrats in the Congress to seek out those answers.”


Democrats, meanwhile, are clamoring for Nunes to step aside and for the House to create a select committee or 9/11 Commission-style panel to investigate Russian meddling in the election.

They believe Nunes spoiled the House investigation by briefing President Trump on his findings and by refusing to provide his committee with evidence or the source for his claims that those in Trump’s inner circle may have been the subject of incidental surveillance during the campaign.

So far, most Republicans, including Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFreedomWorks backs Jim Jordan for House Speaker House, Senate GOP compete for cash Some doubt McCarthy or Scalise will ever lead House GOP MORE (R-Wis.), have publicly backed Nunes and said that the House and Senate Intelligence committees should be allowed to do their work before there is further talk about an independent investigation.

“I have full faith in both the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee,” Rep. Daniel Donovan (R-N.Y.), who as district attorney of Richmond County, N.Y., investigated the 2014 death of Eric Garner, told The Hill.

“I think we should let them do their work. ... They know a lot more than the public knows. They know a lot more than what’s been portrayed in the media. We should let them do their work, come out with the results, and then we can review whether or not it was proper.”

But cracks in the GOP conference are beginning to show.

Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) on Tuesday became the first Republican House member to say that Nunes should recuse himself from the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian meddling.

Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainHeitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State Senate committee sets Monday vote even as Pompeo appears to lack support Trump checkmates Democrats in sending Pompeo to North Korea MORE (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination Senate panel moving ahead with Mueller bill despite McConnell opposition Overnight Defense: Lawmakers worry over Syria strategy | Trump's base critical of strikes | Flake undecided on Pompeo | Coast Guard plans to keep allowing transgender members | GOP chair wants to cut B from Pentagon agencies MORE (R-S.C.) have both said Congress needs to either impanel a select committee or bring in a special prosecutor to convene a bipartisan panel on the issue.

Republicans on the Intelligence committees are eager to get to the bottom of intelligence leaks that have damaged Trump and of allegations that Republicans were improperly spied upon or unmasked by the Obama administration during the campaign.

But Democrats don’t trust the GOP-led committees to fully investigate whether anyone in Trump’s orbit colluded with the Russians to influence the election.