A new report by Politico has exposed a group of House Republicans who have gathered secretly in the Capitol in an effort to build a case that senior leaders of the Justice Department and FBI improperly, and perhaps criminally, mishandled the contents of a dossier that describes alleged ties between President Donald Trump and Russia.
Citing four people familiar with their plans, Politico reported Wednesday night that “a subset of the Republican members of the House intelligence committee, led by Chairman Devin Nunes of California, has been quietly working parallel to the committee’s high-profile inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election in a concert effort to discredit the FBI as corrupt and undermine the Russia probe.”
The people familiar with Nunes’ plans said the goal is to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether any Trump aides colluded with Russia during the 2016 campaign — or possibly even to justify his dismissal, as some rank-and-file Republicans and Trump allies have demanded.
The group is relying on classified documents obtained by the intelligence committee’s broader Russia probe, Politico added.
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“Republicans in the Nunes-led group suspect the FBI and DOJ have worked either to hurt Trump or aid his former campaign rival Hillary Clinton, a sense that has pervaded parts of the president’s inner circle. Trump has long called the investigations into whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election a ‘witch hunt,’ and on Tuesday, his son Donald Trump Jr. told a crowd in Florida the probes were part of a ‘rigged system’ by ‘people at the highest levels of government’ who were working to hurt the president.”
The more dangerous Mueller’s probe has seemed to become to the White House, the louder the attacks have gotten from Trump allies on Capitol Hill, Democrats say.
“Republicans are terrified that Special Counsel Mueller is getting closer to the truth, and they are desperate to grind his investigation to a halt — even if they undermine the foundations of our democracy,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said in a statement after Republicans requested the FBI interviews.
According to the report, the GOP lawmakers haven’t informed Democrats about their plans.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said he wasn’t aware of the Nunes effort but said it fit with what he sees as an increasingly destructive bent in Republicans’ rhetoric and actions.
“I think what we are seeing in our committee … is an effort to attack the Department of Justice, an effort to attack the FBI, to attack Bob Mueller, is an effort to undermine the investigations and these institutions out of fear of what they’ll find and try to discredit them in advance,” he said. “It’s a pernicious thing to do that will ultimately inflict long-term damage on these institutions,” he added, according to the report.
The Nunes-led group is the latest evidence of an increasingly toxic and bruising confrontation between Republicans on Capitol Hill and the highest ranks of the justice system.
DOJ and FBI officials declined a request to comment. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended the FBI and Mueller’s team at a recent hearing on Capitol Hill. “The special counsel investigation is not a witch hunt,” he said.