Top intel Democrat ramps up the Russia investigation — and hints it may implicate Devin Nunes

Top intel Democrat ramps up the Russia investigation — and hints it may implicate Devin Nunes
Gage Skidmore

With Democrats fully in control of the House of Representatives, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) now heads the chamber's Intelligence Committee and is reopening the investigation into Russian interference in American politics and its collusion with President Donald Trump's campaign. Under his leadership, the investigation will be much more sprawling and far-reaching than anything imagined by the Republican majority that used to control the committee. GOP lawmakers had prematurely ended their probe of the matter and attempted to exonerate the president over objections from Democrats April 2018.

A report from the Daily Beast Wednesday details the Democrats' new expansive version of the investigation:

The investigation will examine the “scope” of the Kremlin’s influence campaigns on American politics, both in 2016 and afterwards, and “any links/and or coordination” between anyone in the Trump orbit—the campaign, transition, administration, or, critically, the president’s businesses—and “furtherance of the Russian government’s interests.” It will also look at whether “any foreign actor,” not only Russians, has any “leverage, financial or otherwise” over Trump, “his family, his business, or his associates”—and whether such actors actively “sought to compromise” any of those many, many people.

A related line of inquiry will examine whether Trump, his family, and his advisers “are or were at any time at heightened risk of” being suborned by foreign interests in any way. That includes a vulnerability to foreign “exploitation, inducement, manipulation, pressure or coercion.” All that makes it very likely that the committee examines Trump administration policy—think the Syria pullout, or ex-national security adviser and admitted felon Mike Flynn’s attempts to work with Russia’s military in Syria, or Trump’s infamous Helsinki meeting with Vladimir Putin—through that lens.

It's a bold strategy, but Democrats were expected to deeply examine the issue after the cursory work done by House Republicans. Schiff did mention one other aspect of the investigation, though, which will surprise many and potentially spark fear in his predecessor.

He said that the committee will investigate efforts to impede or obstruct the investigation, including conduct by "those in the Congress.”

This seems to be a direct signal that the committee will examine the behavior of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who ran the committee before Schiff took over and was widely seen as a Trump toady running interference in the investigation on the president's behalf.

"This means the House Intel Committee will investigate how one of its own members, former Chair , obstructed its investigation," said former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.

As a member of Congress, Nunes has significant constitutional protections, so it's not clear what he might have done that could actually pose a real legal threat to him. But it seems that if he committed any crimes in trying to run a cover-up for the president, Schiff wants to find out.

The Daily Beast has previously reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is interested in scrutinizing a meeting with dozens of foreign officials that Nunes attended in the run-up to Trump's inauguration, though it's not clear if he specifically suspects the congressman of any criminal wrongdoing.


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