Rep. Devin Nunes, the Tulare Republican who’s spent the last few weeks under intense scrutiny by national media and his Democratic counterparts, fired back at his critics Friday during his return to the central San Joaquin Valley.
During an appearance on the “Ray Appleton Show” on KMJ 580 AM/105.9 FM and a subsequent interview with The Bee, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee discussed his investigation into the presidential election and transition, his relationship with the president and the “wildly inaccurate” reports coming from the mainstream media about his committee’s investigation into President Trump’s claim to have been under surveillance during the presidential campaign.
Nunes was in Fresno to speak to the Ag Lenders Society of California annual meeting at 1 p.m. That drew several hundred protesters to line a sidewalk along Blackstone Avenue, most holding picket signs.
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Nunes took to the radio just after 11 a.m., and The Bee conducted a separate, off-the-air interview with Nunes during one of the commercial breaks. (Reporter Rory Appleton is Ray Appleton’s son.)
During the Bee interview, Nunes denied reports that the Intelligence Committee’s investigation into questionable surveillance conducted by U.S. intelligence agencies during the presidential election and subsequent transition has been suspended. Investigators were, as he spoke, gathering information from these agencies. He also recently agreed to a list of witnesses to be privately interviewed by the committee with its ranking member, Democrat Adam Schiff, who has publicly called for Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation.
News broke Friday that Schiff had also gone to the White House to view documents related to the investigation, though it was not known if this was the same evidence Nunes reviewed.
He blamed the intelligence agencies, which he declined to name, as well as Democrats for blocking his committee’s requests for information or failing to submit those materials in a timely fashion. It was for this reason that he had to go to the White House, which he said had “secure facilities,” to conduct some of his investigation.
Nunes also told The Bee that he has no special allegiance to President Donald Trump. He remains beholden to Congress and the people of his district, he said.
I have a duty and an obligation to tell the president when something is really wrong with the intelligence agencies. It involved him directly and did not involve Russia.
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare
“I have a duty and an obligation to tell the president when something is really wrong with the intelligence agencies,” Nunes said. “It involved him directly and did not involve Russia.”
During his radio interview, Nunes said that public hearings related to the investigation would be reinstated, but he did not have a timetable. The committee will also have to decide “what type of public hearings” to hold. He declined to get into the specifics of who was on his witness list.
Nunes refused to go into detail about what he found and alerted the president about, but he called it “alarming.” He said it involved American names, and he wasn’t sure it was legal. He added that his findings could and maybe should change how the laws of conducting surveillance on Americans work.
During the radio interview, Nunes also criticized the national media and elaborated on what he believes was Russia’s involvement in the November election. He also cast some doubt on recent reports that former national security adviser Michael Flynn is asking for immunity in exchange for his cooperation with the congressional investigations.
“Look, we know the major news outlets bend left, and this is the obvious example of that,” Nunes said. “They’re not interested in the facts.”
He went on to say that media outlets have inaccurately reported his perceived involvement with Trump and his reasons for going to the White House. He said that the White House had the secure facilities necessary for him to conduct interviews and review documents directly related to the surveillance of Americans during the transition between the Obama and Trump administrations, which Nunes was a part of.
“It had to be done,” Nunes said. “I was well aware of the appearance.”
That’s why, Nunes said, he held a news conference to brief the media soon after.
There is no evidence at this point of (Russian) collusion with President Trump.
“There is no evidence at this point of (Russian) collusion with President Trump,” he said.
Nunes said that media organizations should understand the need to protect sources. Several stories have identified the two sources Nunes met with as Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a lawyer who works on national security issues at the White House Counsel’s Office and who formerly worked on the staff of the House Intelligence Committee. Nunes has not confirmed their identities.
He also pointed to what he called “an orchestrated effort to tear down our committee” by national media. He opposes calls for an independent commission to investigate the election and transition because he “believes there’s no such thing as an independent commission.”
Nunes said he believes some of the controversy stems from “feelings being hot on the left because they believe this election was stolen from them.” He said he understood those frustrations.
He said he doesn’t mind the media attention, nor does he seek it out. However, he believes the House Intelligence Committee is “a lot more in the limelight than we should be.”
“TV is not a proper place for me to be,” he said.
During the KMJ broadcast, Nunes discussed Russia in some detail.
There’s not been a bigger Russia hawk (in Washington, D.C.) than me. Now I am being attacked as some kind of Putin protegé.
“There’s not been a bigger Russia hawk (in Washington, D.C.) than me,” Nunes said. “Now I am being attacked as some kind of Putin protegé.”
According to Nunes, he told the Obama administration that Russia posed the biggest intelligence risk the country had seen since 9/11.
Nunes said that Russia was involved in the election, but not through collusion with Trump. Instead, he believes the Russian government is spreading propaganda in the U.S. and the world through RT, the English-language television network whose website says it brings “the Russian view on global news.”
However, Nunes said that if his committee does find evidence of collusion or wrongdoing concerning Trump or his campaign, that “totally changes the game.” He would report his findings to the Department of Justice and close the committee’s investigation, he said.
Nunes noted that, contrary to popular belief, he was not an early supporter of Trump. He threw his support behind the president after Trump won the presidential primary because “I am a Republican and I wanted the Republicans to win the presidency, the House and the Senate.”