With more bombshell revelations every day over the politicalization of the investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election, openly gay Democratic Rep. Mark Takano of Riverside has added his voice to the growing chorus calling for Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of Tulare, California to recuse himself as chair of the House Intelligence Committee.
In a phone interview from Washington DC with the Los Angeles Blade on Thursday, Takano talked about the uproar over his conservative California colleague and how he thinks Democrats winning back the House is the only way to get a fair and true investigation in Russian interference and possible Trump collusion. Takano is co-chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s LGBT Caucus with Colorado Rep. Jared Polis.
Nunes, who was on Donald Trump’s presidential transition team, is under intense fire for announcing at a news conference outside the White House that he had seen intelligence reports showing that Trump, his campaign and his associates had been incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance activities during the Obama administration. Nunes said he talked to House Speaker Paul Ryan before dashing to the White House to brief Trump. However, Nunes failed to follow protocol and brief his Ranking Democratic committee co-chair Rep. Adam Schiff or any of the other committee members about what he discovered.
During a brief White House photo op, Trump said he felt “somewhat vindicated” by Nunes’ revelation since FBI Director Comey and other high ranking officials, including Nunes, had said a Trump tweet claiming former President Obama had ordered wiretapping of Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign was not true.
“I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found,” Trump told reporters. But on Thursday, the New York Times reported that Nunes’ two previously unidentified sources were, in fact, White House officials.
“Several current American officials identified the White House officials as Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a lawyer who works on national security issues at the White House Counsel’s Office and was previously counsel to Mr. Nunes’s committee,” The Times wrote. “Though neither has been accused of breaking any laws, they do appear to have sought to use intelligence to advance the political goals of the Trump administration.”
Takano told The Blade that Nunes may now face a challenger in 2018. “Someone will probably run against him,” says Takano.
“The D-Tripe C will continue to look at people who are targets and Mr. Nunes really hasn’t done himself any favors. As someone said today, ‘Devan Nunes reports to the president’ – which is kind of an astounding thing to say about a congressman – that they serve the president. In this case, Mr. Nunes has compromised his ability to lead an oversight role, which is what his committee is supposed to do. To have a fair investigation, a fair review of what’s going on — I think he has shot his credibility by having gone to the White House without the knowledge of his colleagues,” Takano says. “I have called for Mr. Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation, not to step down but to recuse himself because I don’t think he can be a fair and independent oversight leader.”
Takano makes a distinction between Nunes’ recusal and replacement since there might be “issues” with whomever among Nunes’ Republican colleagues might replace him.
“These are folks who are more interested in keeping power so they can make decisions,” Takano says. “They have a president who is willing to sign off on their agenda. So I don’t see Congress, under their leadership, as a co-equal branch that’s interested in getting at the truth. And getting at the truth is what I think the American people want to see happen. And unfortunately, I don’t see Mr. Nunes or whoever would succeed him next in line as advancing that cause.”
“It’s very important that the American people understand” that Democrats must in in 2018, “to get at the truth about what happened, to understand to what extent the Russians interfered with the American elections and what was the impact – as well as possible connections to Donald Trump’s financial interests,” Takano says. “There are more than enough reasons and cause to hold this president and administration accountable.”
“And I don’t think that’s going to happen until the Democrats have control of the House and can exercise subpoena power and compel testimony and have the real ability to investigate. That’s just not going to happen until there is a change in who holds the majority in the House.”
This interview was part of a story for the Desert Outlook of Palm Springs, a division of the Desert Sun.