The most senior House Republican on intelligence matters said Monday that his committee will not launch a new investigation into reports of Russian election interference.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a close ally of President-elect Donald Trump, said in a statement that a new probe would “duplicate” other actions already being taken by the intelligence community. Instead, his panel will monitor the already existing investigations being run by various intelligence agencies, he said — and keep a close eye on the Obama administration’s final report on Russian meddling, due out in late January.
“At this time I do not see any benefit in opening further investigations, which would duplicate current committee oversight efforts and Intelligence Community inquiries,” Nunes, a member of Trump’s transition team, said in the statement. “We will also closely oversee the production of the report on these attacks requested by President Obama to ensure its analytical integrity.”
Nunes’ statement came several hours after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said several Senate committees will be running their own investigations. The Washington Post reported Friday that the CIA has concluded that Russian meddling in the U.S. election was an explicit attempt to tilt the contest against Hillary Clinton in favor of Trump.
Trump has called the CIA’s findings “ridiculous” and said it was “time to move on.” But a number of top Senate Republicans have said the issue is too serious to overlook. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain even called for the creation of an independent panel to investigate — something McConnell said isn’t necessary.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Hill, House Republicans have been less enthusiastic about launching new probes. Some of the most dogged oversight members, like Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Trump’s soon-to-be CIA director, Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), have said little about the matter.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), in a statement Monday, broadly decried “any state-sponsored cyber attacks” and “any foreign intervention” in the democratic process. But, notably, he did not call for a new, stand-alone investigation. Rather, he endorsed a continuation of an ongoing probe of “cyber threats posed by foreign governments and terrorist organizations to the security of the United States” — a probe Nunes has been working on all year.
And even then, Ryan said any questions about Russia’s interference “should not cast doubt on the clear and decisive outcome of this election.”
“We must condemn and push back forcefully against any state-sponsored cyberattacks on our democratic process,” Ryan said, later adding: “As I’ve said before, any foreign intervention in our elections is entirely unacceptable.”
A Republican congressional staffer familiar with the House’s work said House investigators are fine with the Senate’s decision to start something new, but their approach won’t be the same.
Nunes, for his part, agreed in his statement that his panel would still be “conducting vigorous oversight of the investigations into election-related cyber attacks” — even if it’s not exclusively targeting Russia’s actions.
“Seeing as cyber attacks, including Russian attacks, have been one of the committee’s top priorities for many years, we’ve held extensive briefings and hearings on the topic,” Nunes said in the statement. “As the FBI, CIA, and other elements of the Intelligence Community continue their investigations into these attacks, the House Intelligence Committee will remain a vigilant monitor of their efforts.”
House Democrats, however, have already labeled Nunes’ plans insufficient.
“Russian meddling during our presidential election merits a bipartisan, joint investigation by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees,” said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on Intelligence.