Top Dem: Nunes violating Russia recusal with subpoenas

Top Dem: Nunes violating Russia recusal with subpoenas
© Greg Nash

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is violating his recusal from the House Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation by issuing subpoenas related to the matter, the panel's top Democrat says.

"The Committee rules provide that the chair has to sign the subpoenas unless that authority is delegated to someone else," Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffMedia reliability questioned over report Trump directed lies to Congress Giuliani defends Trump going after Cohen's father-in-law Schiff: Congress will 'absolutely' investigate claims raised in BuzzFeed report MORE (D-Calif.) told Andrea Mitchell during an interview on MSNBC.

"That authority should have been delegated to [Texas Republican Rep.] Mike Conaway in consultation with myself. That hasn't happened yet. I think that's a violation of the recusal by the Chairman."

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On Wednesday, Nunes issued three subpoenas related to whether intelligence officials improperly unmasked Trump officials in surveillance reports. Those requests came in addition to subpoenas agreed upon by Schiff and Conaway, who is now leading the Russia investigation. 

Nunes, the panel's chairman, stepped aside from the inquiry into Russia's role in election tampering on April 6 in response to an ethics investigation about his handling of the probe.

The move came after Nunes announced finding evidence — allegedly given to him by the White House — that showed Trump officials had been unmasked in surveillance transcripts of foreign officials. 

Nunes's announcement came before that evidence was shared with the committee, outraging Democrats who accused him of working with the White House.

"I believe it is in the best interests of the House Intelligence Committee and the Congress for me to have Representative Mike Conaway, with assistance from Representatives Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyCongress must take the next steps on federal criminal justice reforms Lynch testimony marks final interview of GOP-led probe Comey defends FBI actions on Flynn in House interview MORE and Tom Rooney, temporarily take charge of the Committee’s Russia investigation while the House Ethics Committee looks into this matter. I will continue to fulfill all my other responsibilities as Committee Chairman," Nunes said in a statement when he stepped aside.

A Republican aide argued to CNN that Nunes never used the word "recusal," and Nunes had therefore not recused himself. 

On MSNBC, Schiff said of the subpoenas, "I think they're part of the White House desire to shift attention away from Russia to the unmasking."

Mitchell asked whether the unmasking investigation should count as a different investigation than the Russia investigation, meaning that the apparent recusal spurred on by Nunes revealing evidence of unmasking would not cover subpoenas about the unmasking. 

"Clearly, it doesn't appear separate to the president," Schiff said.

President Trump tweeted about the unmaking on Thursday morning.

"The big story is the 'unmasking and surveillance' of people that took place during the Obama Administration," he wrote.