Speaker Ryan Should Remove Nunes As Intelligence Committee Chair

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  • dale eisman, david vance
Statement by Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn

Ethics laws passed last week in three jurisdictions (the city of Sacramento, and the states of Mississippi, and New Mexico) indicate voters around the country want to see higher standards and genuine accountability for people who violate common sense ethical rules. But for many politicians, “ethics” is nothing more than a talking point.

Rep. Devin Nunes is a case in point. He has surrendered his own integrity and compromised that of the entire House Intelligence Committee.  We call on House Speaker Paul Ryan to immediately relieve Nunes of his chairmanship and call for creation of a special commission, independent of Congress, to lead the investigation of possible collusion between the Trump for President campaign and the Russian government.

Nunes’ clandestine visit to the White House grounds, to review and discuss “evidence” that first should have been shared with his colleagues on the Intelligence Committee, has undermined the integrity of the Intelligence Committee investigation on the issue of Russian interference in the election. His actions clearly show that he lacks the judgment and independence to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation.

Nunes’ conduct is compounded by the Trump administration’s refusal to provide details of his visit, including who briefed or spoke with him, the “evidence” that was discussed, and the length of his stay. That information is collected routinely; it can certainly be shared publicly as a baseline commitment to White House transparency.  The episode makes a powerful case for prompt passage in Congress of the “Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act” — the MAR-A-LAGO Act — which would require the administration to disclose the names of all visitors to the White House or “any other location at which the President or the Vice President regularly conducts official business.”

This investigation is a test for Speaker Ryan’s leadership. He must put personal and party loyalties aside and ensure that the House fulfills its responsibility under the Constitution to serve as an independent check on the Executive Branch. At this juncture, the best way to do that is to remove Congressman Nunes as chairman of the Intelligence Committee and move forward with an independent investigation, led by a special commission independent of Congress.