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House GOP leader defends Nunes: He 'has a right to talk to anybody'

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyDemocrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? Top Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' MORE (R-Calif.) on Tuesday defended Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesBiden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls Overnight Defense: Trump loyalist to lead Pentagon transition | Democrats ask VA for vaccine distribution plan | Biden to get classified intel reports Ex-Nunes aide linked to Biden conspiracy theories will lead Pentagon transition MORE's (R-Calif.) contacts with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Pa. lawmaker was informed of positive coronavirus test while meeting with Trump: report MORE's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his associate amid the chamber's mounting impeachment inquiry.

McCarthy said at a press conference that “Nunes has a right to talk to anybody” and blasted a report that stated the House Intelligence Committee ranking member had gone to Vienna last year to meet with Viktor Shokin, Ukraine’s former prosecutor general.

“I don’t have a problem with Devin talking to individuals. What was claimed about Devin on CNN, on a national news media, is that he went to Vienna to meet with individuals,” McCarthy told reporters, citing the report published last last month.

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"He was not in Vienna. That was a lie, just like many lies before, and it seems like a perpetual thing of what we do," he added of disputing certain reporting.

When asked if Nunes should discuss what happened on the calls, which were highlighted in a report released by the Intelligence panel earlier Tuesday, McCarthy said that is a decision that should be left up to Nunes.

"That's a question for Devin, but Devin has the right to talk to people," he said. "There's nothing wrong with what Devin has done except, once again, try to get accused of something. It is a simple smokescreen."

The Intelligence Committee report showed phone logs indicating that Nunes and a member of his staff were in contact with Giuliani and the lawyer's associate Lev Parnas in April and May amid efforts by Trump's attorney to get Ukraine to launch politically charged probes involving the Bidens and the 2016 presidential election.

Giuliani, who has been a central figure in the impeachment inquiry, is reportedly under investigation by federal prosecutors, while Parnas was indicted this year on allegations of violating campaign finance laws.

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Democrats, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19 Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn Trump pardons Michael Flynn MORE (D-Calif.), stated they found the contacts uncovered in the report Tuesday “deeply concerning.”

Nunes has not weighed in yet concerning the calls.

The Intelligence Committee voted along party lines Tuesday evening to advance its impeachment report to the House Judiciary Committee, which is charged with weighing whether actions detailed in the report rise to the level of impeaching the president.

The Judiciary panel is slated to hold its first impeachment hearing on Wednesday.

This story was updated at 10:20 p.m.