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The House Intelligence chair, Rep. Devin Nunes, told reporters Wednesday that his committee would continue its investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election “with or without” cooperation from its Democratic members.
Nunes, a California Republican, made the comments after numerous top Democrats – including Rep. Adam Schiff, the committee’s ranking member, as well as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – called for Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation.
The calls came after Nunes met with a source on White House grounds to discuss intelligence that he later disseminated to the press and the president before briefing other committee members. He said the intelligence was not related to his committee’s investigation.
He said the evidence showed that the intelligence community had incidentally collected information on President Donald Trump’s transition team, and possibly Trump himself, during the postelection transition period. That collection, he added, was not related to Russia.
But Democrats and some Republicans were dismayed by Nunes’ actions, saying that by going to the White House grounds he delegitimized the nonpartisan investigation he was tasked with leading.
Nunes took questions Wednesday after Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina became the first Republican lawmaker to ask for the chairman, who was a member of Trump’s transition team, to recuse himself from the investigation.
House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday said he would not ask for Nunes to recuse himself, and Nunes said the calls for recusal or removal from the committee were “politics.”
Nunes on Wednesday said, “We’re beginning to figure out who’s actually serious about the investigation.”
“Because it appears like the Democrats aren’t really serious about this investigation,” he said.
He added: “I mean, we always want to keep the committee bipartisan. But at the end of the day, we’re going to do an investigation with or without them, and if they want to participate, that’s fine, but the facts of the matter are pretty clear.”
Regarding that participation, Nunes said Democrats on the committee did not provide a witness list of whom they wanted to call to testify. He also said Democrats didn’t sign a letter to FBI Director James Comey, whom Nunes asked to return before the committee to testify again.
Democratic members of the committee told Business Insider that both claims from Nunes were inaccurate.
“We’ve been in continuous talks with the other side about witnesses we want to hear from,” Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell told Business Insider on Wednesday.
Swalwell added that Democrats had wanted to hear from former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former CIA Director John Brennan in a hearing that had been scheduled for Tuesday, but that Nunes had canceled the session.
“I don’t understand how Nunes can cancel hearings and say it’s our fault” the investigation has stalled, Swalwell said.
A representative for Rep. Mike Quigley, a Democrat from Illinois on the committee, echoed Swalwell, saying “neither of those claims are accurate.”
“Democrats are 100% committed to this investigation,” Tara Vales, the Quigley representative, told Business Insider. She added that a closed meeting with Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers and an open hearing with Clapper, Brennan, and Yates, “all of whom were ready and willing to testify on Tuesday,” she said, were not “mutually exclusive.”
“Democrats welcome the opportunity to hear from Comey at any time,” she said, “but that cannot take the place of an open hearing.”
Said Swalwell: “The chairman requested that in lieu of a public hearing we have a closed hearing with James Comey and Mike Rogers. I did not support having one substitute for another. We could have heard from Comey and Rogers in a closed setting, and then held the regular open hearing afterward. In the end, we ended up doing neither.”
A committee aide told Business Insider that Democrats did provide a tentative list of additional witnesses to Republicans on Tuesday, and that Democrats had offered to schedule both a closed hearing and an open hearing next week. They had yet to hear back, the aide said.
“This is the first any of us have heard of these claims” of a lack of cooperation, another committee aide said.
Jack Langer, Nunes’ spokesperson, disputed the Democrats’ denials, reiterating that the chairman’s earlier assertions were true. Langer said the Republicans on the committee were told this morning that they would be getting a preliminary list from the Democrats, but the GOP members have yet to receive it.
“Both of the chairman’s assertions are true, and we still haven’t received a witness list,” Langer told Business Insider.