Pelosi calls on Ryan to oust Nunes over ‘bogus’ memo
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday urged GOP leaders to oust Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) from atop the Intelligence Committee, charging that his “deliberately dishonest” claims of Department of Justice (DOJ) abuse make him unfit to serve as chairman.
In a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Pelosi emphasized that top officials in the DOJ and FBI have repeatedly urged Nunes and House Republican leaders to keep classified a Republican memo alleging surveillance abuse at the agencies, warning that it’s both inaccurate and could reveal federal surveillance methods at risk of undermining national security.
“The decision of Chairman Nunes and House Republicans to release a bogus memo has taken the GOP’s cover-up campaign to a new, completely unacceptable extreme,” Pelosi wrote. “As the Department of Justice warned, the public release of the memo would be an ‘unprecedented action’ and ‘extraordinarily reckless.’”
Pelosi also referenced recent claims from Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), senior Democrat on the Intel panel, who said that Nunes had “secretly altered” the memo prior to sharing it with Trump.
“This action is not only dangerous, it is illegitimate, and violates House rules,” she wrote. “Congressman Nunes’ deliberately dishonest actions make him unfit to serve as Chairman, and he must be removed immediately from this position.”
Her request came just as reports surfaced that President Trump is poised to approve the release of the Nunes memo, assembled for the Intelligence chairman by GOP committee staff. It alleges surveillance misconduct by the department amid an ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 elections. Republicans on the panel voted late last month to publicize the four-page document.
The Nunes memo has sparked a firestorm on Capitol Hill in recent weeks, with Republicans claiming its contents expose a pattern of partisan bias within the FBI that discredit the ongoing investigation into the Russia-Trump connection. Trump, who considers the probe a “witch hunt,” has repeatedly pressed DOJ officials to shut it down.
Ryan has backed Nunes’s decision to make the memo public, while warning rank-and-file Republicans against conflating a connection between its contents and the ongoing Russia probe being conducted by special prosecutor Robert Mueller.
“Because of all the loose political rhetoric floating around here, we need to make sure we explain that there is a separation between these things,” Ryan said Tuesday.
Ryan, whose office on Thursday declined to comment on Pelosi’s letter, will hold a press conference later in the day in White Sulfur Springs, W.Va., where the Republicans have gathered for their annual issues retreat.
The episode has also exposed divisions between House Republicans and those in the Senate, where members of the Intelligence Committee, including Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), have been denied access to the memo.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.C.), a member of GOP leadership, said Thursday the memo should remain classified to allow Burr and the upper chamber Republicans a chance to review it.
“The Senate Intelligence Committee needs to see it, for sure. Sen. Burr would like to see it and hasn’t been able to yet,” Thune said during the GOP retreat.
Nunes had recused himself from the House investigation last April, after the Ethics Committee opened an examination into whether he’d disclosed classified information in the course of the Intelligence probe. The Ethics panel cleared Nunes of any wrongdoing in December, but the episode hasn’t been forgotten by Pelosi.
“Since pledging to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation, Congressman Nunes has abused his position to launch a highly unethical and dangerous cover-up campaign for the White House,” she wrote to Ryan.