Head of Trump-Russia probe under fire, won't step down

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said he will continue to lead the investigation even though several committee Democrats questioned his credibility as a close ally of President Donald Trump and his announcement last week he had seen USA surveillance of Trump aides.

Tuesday, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said he will not take himself off the investigation.

Senate Democrats on the intelligence committee also question where Chairman Nunes got the reports.

But Nunes can not say whether Trump or any of the president's associates personally participated in the communications that were intercepted, meaning it's possible that the information he's citing merely refers to foreign officials talking about Trump transition team members. Later in the day, the White House vehemently denied a report that it had sought to hobble the testimony of a former acting attorney general before Nunes canceled the hearing where she was to speak.

Nunes acknowledged visiting the White House the night before he announced that he had information that some Trump associates may have been snared in incidental intelligence collection before Trump took office on January 20. Nunes concluded saying to the Fox News reporter, "I would encourage you guys to go and start to follow them around and figure out who they want to bring in and interview". You can't just walk in and receive classified information. This comes after Nunes' freaky unveiling of supposed evidence that the Obama White House really did surveil Trump aides during the transition.

"At this point, an independent commission outside the jurisdiction of the White House and Congress is the only acceptable way forward".

Nunes said Tuesday he won't share that information - even with members of his own panel.

The White House has said it has "no problem" with Sally Yates testifying before the committee investigating possible Trump-Russia links.

On Friday, Nunes canceled the public hearing that had been set for Tuesday with testimony from fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates, ex-CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

The letter in question was from Yates's attorney regarding her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee during their investigation into Russia's influence over the 2016 election.

"I hope she testifies", press secretary Sean Spicer said.

Yates, of course, played a key role in investigating former Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who had to step down from his position as Trump's national security adviser after it emerged that he had spoken to the Russian Ambassador about sanctions leveled by the Obama Administration during Trump's transition.

"I've been around for quite a while, and I've never heard of any such thing", McCain said of Nunes' behavior in an appearance on CBS Tuesday morning. Nunes told reporters, rebuffing Democrats.

On Tuesday, Chaffetz defended Nunes, calling him a man of "high integrity".

The row comes as the House continues to investigate claims that the Kremlin had sought to interfere with the U.S. election to help Mr Trump's campaign.

  • Fernando Stephens