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Schiff says Nunes can't lead Russia inquiry and be a Trump surrogate

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank). (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank). (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) has risked undermining the credibility of the panel's investigation of Russian interference of the 2016 election by sharing new information with the White House, his Democratic counterpart said Wednesday.

By briefing the public and then President Trump about intercepted communications involving members of the transition team, but not other members of the committee involved in the investigation, Nunes cast "quite a profound cloud over our ability to do our work," Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) told reporters.

"The chairman will either need to decide if he's leading an investigation into conduct which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or he is going to act as a surrogate of the White House. Because he cannot do both," Schiff said at a Capitol Hill news conference.

The assessment, even if delivered in Schiff's typically understated fashion, reflected a potential breakdown in what is traditionally a nonpartisan partnership between the top Republican and Democrat on the Intelligence Committee.

It was all the more striking given that both men have served together for more than a decade in the same state congressional delegation.

Schiff said he raised his concerns directly with Nunes after the Republican disclosed new information publicly and then to the White House. He stopped short of saying whether Nunes was improperly making classified information public, saying instead that his actions were "beyond irregular."

Nunes' actions further demonstrated the need for an independent inquiry into Russia's actions during the campaign, Schiff said.

"We're the only investigation there is. If we don't do it, no one is going to do it," Schiff said. "Now, perhaps the White House would like it that way. But the American people, I think, want there to be a credible investigation. And if we're not going to conduct it, then we need to have an independent commission do it."

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