Republicans need to keep control of the House to protect President Trump from the Russia investigation, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said at a recent fundraiser, according to an audio recording released Wednesday.
“If Sessions won’t unrecuse and Mueller won’t clear the president, we’re the only ones. Which is really the danger,” Nunes said, referring to Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions and Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel heading the investigation into Russian efforts to sway the 2016 election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign.
“I mean, we have to keep all these seats. We have to keep the majority. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away,” Nunes said.
The recording was released by MSNBC, which said it received it from a person associated with Fuse Washington, a progressive group based in Seattle. The person had paid the $250 to attend the fundraiser that Nunes held with House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.).
A portion of the recording aired on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Wednesday evening.
The committee Nunes heads was tasked with investigating whether anyone from the Trump campaign may have collaborated with Russian attempts to influence the election, but its inquiry quickly became mired in partisan disputes.
Nunes (R-Tulare), a Trump ally who helped on the president’s transition team, recused himself from presiding over the investigation after questions arose regarding his handling of classified information.
Nunes’ office did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday night, but his spokesman Jack Langer told The Hill newspaper that “these are sensible ideas. I’m glad Chairman Nunes talked about them.”
Nunes has repeatedly called for the Mueller investigation to come to an end and has criticized FBI officials for not quickly complying with document requests about how the investigation began.
Nunes also said that an effort by some hard-line House Republicans to impeach Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller investigation, is on hold because of the election and because an impeachment debate would tie up the Senate and prevent it from quickly confirming Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.
“You have to decide what you want right now because the Senate only has so much time. Do you want them to drop everything and not confirm the Supreme Court justice, the new Supreme Court justice?” Nunes said in response to a question from a person attending the fundraiser.
“I’ve said publicly Rosenstein deserves to be impeached. I mean, so, I don’t think you’re gonna get any argument from most of our colleagues. The question is the timing of it right before the election,” Nunes added.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has said he opposes the effort to impeach Rosenstein, but the party’s most conservative members in the House have indicated they will push the issue again as soon as September.