GOP rep: Nunes 'answers to the president'

Rep. Ted YohoTheodore (Ted) Scott YohoTrouble brewing as GOP struggles with spending bill votes A retreat in American diplomacy Trump huddles with transportation leaders ahead of expected infrastructure plan MORE (R-Fla.) on Thursday defended House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes's (R-Calif.) decision to brief President Trump on claims that members of his transition team were incidentally surveilled by the intelligence community, saying that Nunes answers to the president.

"You've got to keep in mind who he works for," Yoho said during an interview on MSNBC. "He works for the president, and he answers to the president."

Pressed by MSNBC anchor Craig Melvin on whether he believes that members of Congress work for the president or for their constituents, Yoho said they answer to both. But he said Nunes was put in a position that warranted going to Trump.

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"You do both, but when you're in that capacity, if you've got information — I'm okay with what he did," he said.

The idea that Nunes "answers" to Trump would appear to conflict with the idea that Congress and the presidency are separate, coequal branches of government.

A spokesman for Yoho looked to back away from the comments, however, later telling Talking Points Memo that the Florida Republican "misspoke" and believes that members of Congress work for their constituents. 

"Members work for their constituents, whether they are rank-and-file or if they have the honor of serving as a committee chairman," Brian Kaveney wrote. "The congressman stated that he works for his constituents and not for the President. The same reasoning is applied to all members. As I said before, the congressman misspoke plain and simple."

Nunes said last week that he had seen evidence that the intelligence community had gathered information on members of Trump's transition team. But he made the announcement without first discussing it with other members of the House Intelligence Committee, first briefing Trump instead.

News reports on Monday revealed that Nunes had visited White House property the night before the explosive announcement to view the evidence. He has refused to reveal the sources of the information, even to members of his committee. 

The move prompted accusations by Democratic lawmakers that Nunes had colluded with the White House on the announcement in order to provide support for Trump's earlier claim that he was wiretapped by the Obama administration. Several Democrats have called on the California Republican to recuse himself from the committee's ongoing investigation into Russian election meddling and Trump and his aides' potential ties to Moscow.

The episode took another turn on Thursday, when The New York Times reported that two White House officials had helped Nunes view the reports detailing the inadvertent surveillance.