WASHINGTON — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes defended calling a reporter at the behest of the Trump administration to discuss the fallout of Gen. Michael Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser, saying it did not in any way compromise his ability to investigate potential wrongdoing involving the administration’s contacts with Russia.
“How is it compromising if I'm trying to be transparent with the press?” Nunes said at a press conference Monday. The White House, he said, passed along the contact information of a single reporter, and asked if he would call them. Nunes said he had already made clear that he believed Flynn had done nothing wrong in previous on the record conversations with reporters.
And Nunes forcefully refuted the idea that the White House had conscripted him to push a specific message.
“That didn’t happen,” he said. “That absolutely didn’t happen.”
Nunes expressed confusion that reporters were objecting to communication orchestrated by the White House.
“The White House has been very critical of a lot of you," he said. "So here you have the White House actually trying to communicate with many of you, and the White House trying to communicate with the congress what they’re doing, and now suddenly that’s wrong. There’s nothing wrong with that."
The press conference Monday was the first of what Nunes said he planned to make a regular event to discuss his committee’s investigation into Russian involvement in the elections, an increasingly expansive probe that encompasses efforts to influence the actual results, alleged contact with Trump campaign officials, Flynn’s phone calls about Russian sanctions, and the leaks from the administration that have brought some of these incidents to light.
Nunes says he reached out to the administration and Australian officials after the Washington Post published a readout of Trump’s call with the Australian prime minister.
“We can’t run a government like this," Nunes said. "A government can't function with massive leaks at the highest level of our president talking to foreign leaders."
As of yet, Nunes said, he has seen no evidence of Trump campaign officials communicating with Russian intelligence.
Nunes, again, dismissed calls for a special prosecutor to look into these incidents.
“As of right now, we have no evidence," he said. "But we will continue to ask for evidence and we will continue to look for evidence."
He also repeated his insistence that there was no need for a special prosecutor to investigate any of those claims, as there was, as of yet, no evidence to substantiate them.
“We can’t just go on a witch hunt against Americans because they appear in a news story,” he said.
But, he said, if his committee did obtain evidence of any contact of any Americans and Russian intelligence, he would follow up.
“If I find out that Reince Priebus was talking to Russian agents, you can bet that Reince Priebus will get a subpoena and appear before the congress,” Nunes said.