By Eileen Sullivan and Eric Tucker, AP
WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House intelligence committee is refusing to step away from its investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, as fresh political allegations bring new cries of protest from Democrats.
Asked Tuesday if he should recuse himself, committee chairman Devin Nunes responded, “Why would I?” 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.
President Donald Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, lashed out at reporters, claiming they’re seeing conspiracies where none exist.
“If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that’s a Russian connection,” he suggested.
The embattled House committee is conducting one of three probes into the election campaign, its aftermath and potential contacts between Trump officials and Russians. The Senate intelligence committee is doing its own investigation, and since late July the FBI has been conducting a counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s meddling and possible coordination with the Trump campaign.
Nunes’ decision to cancel Tuesday’s hearing was the latest in a series of actions that Democrats contend demonstrate that his loyalty to Trump is greater than his commitment to leading an independent investigation. The California Republican, who was a member of Trump’s presidential transition team, has said he met with a secret source last week on White House grounds to review classified material that showed Trump associates’ communications had been captured in “incidental” surveillance of foreigners in November, December and January.
Nunes would not name the source of the information, and his office said he did not intend to share it with other members of the committee.
Nor would he disclose who invited him on the White House grounds for the meeting. He described the source as an intelligence official, not a White House official. In an interview on CNN, he suggested the president’s aides were unaware of the meeting.
Trump has used Nunes’ revelations to defend his unproven claim that Barack Obama tapped phones at Trump Tower.