‘There’s noth­ing there’

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Karoun Demir­jian The Wash­ing­ton Post

The House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee chair­man says there is no ev­i­dence so far of con­tacts be­tween Trump cam­paign of­fi­cials and Rus­sian op­er­a­tives.

WASH­ING­TON — House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Devin Nunes de­nied on Mon­day that there was any ev­i­dence from the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity of con­tacts be­tween Trump cam­paign of­fi­cials and Rus­sian op­er­a­tives.

“As of right now, I don’t have any ev­i­dence of any phone calls. It doesn’t mean they don’t ex­ist. ... What I’ve been told by many folks is that there’s noth­ing there,” said Nunes, R-Calif.

Nunes con­tended there was no need at this time for a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor to in­ves­ti­gate al­le­ga­tions of con­tact be­tween Rus­sian of­fi­cials and Trump cam­paign aides.

In­stead, the Repub­li­can said that the “ma­jor crimes” that have been com­mit­ted are leak­ing to the news me­dia on the sub­ject of Rus­sia, as well as other ac­counts of what should be con­fi­den­tial deal­ings with the Trump White House, in­clud­ing calls with for­eign lead­ers like the Aus­tralian prime min­is­ter.

“There’s been ma­jor crimes com­mit­ted,” Nunes said, re­fer­ring to the leaks. “What I’m con­cerned about is no one is fo­cus­ing on ma­jor leaks that have oc­curred here. ... We can’t run a gov­ern­ment like this. A gov­ern­ment can’t func­tion with mas­sive leaks at the high­est level.”

This is the first time a lead­ing House Repub­li­can — in this case, the law­maker whois lead­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the lower cham­ber— has said flatly that he has not seen any ev­i­dence of in­ap­pro­pri­ate com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween Trump aides and Rus­sia. The FBI is in­ves­ti­gat­ing Rus­sia’s role in last year’s elec­tion, and po­ten­tial ties be­tween Trump as­so­ciates an d Rus­sia.

Nunes also re­jected the call by Democrats that he would re­quest Trump’s tax re­turns, which they be­lieve would shine light on pos­si­ble Trump busi­ness deal­ings with Rus­sia.

Democrats pushed back force­fully on the idea that con­clu­sions could be drawn even be­fore the in­ves­ti­ga­tion has re­ally got­ten up and run­ning.

In a Mon­day af­ter­noon news con­fer­ence, top In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Demo­crat Adam Schiff, of Cal­i­for­nia, ar­gued Nunes’ con­clu­sions are “pre­ma­ture.”

Schiff pointed to the fact that the com­mit­tee has not yet re­ceived any doc­u­ments, called any wit­nesses, or even re­leased the fi­nal agree­ment about the scope of its in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“When you be­gin an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, you don’t be­gin by stat­ing what you be­lieve to be the con­clu­sion,” Schiff told re­porters.

The duel­ing press con­fer­ences are the lat­est sign that House Repub­li­cans and Democrats are di­vided about how to probe al­le­ga­tions that mem­bers of Trump’ s team had im­proper con­tacts with Rus­sian of­fi­cials.

Schiff has agreed to make the leaks part of the House In­tel­li­gence panel’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion — but he warns that the fo­cus should be on the sub­stance of what was leaked, par­tic­u­larly as it per­tains to for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn’s con­tact with Rus­sian of­fi­cials.

Mi­nor­ity Whip Dick Durbin of Illi­nois, back from a trip to Ukraine and other coun­tries he said were wor­ried about Rus­sia, told Bloomberg News edi­tors and re­porters in New York on Mon­day that an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee isn’t suf­fi­cient.

“It has to reach a point where we have pub­lic sen­ti­ment strong enough thatwe launch an in­de­pen­dent, trans­par­ent in­ves­ti­ga­tion of wha tthe Rus­sians did to us,” he said. “Think 9/11.”

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