- The Washington Times - Monday, February 27, 2017

House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes said Monday he’s not see any evidence so far that Trump campaign officials had any contacts with Russian officials, contradicting public reports.

“We still don’t have any evidence of them talking to Russians,” Mr. Nunes said as he briefed reporters. “As of right now, the initial inquiries I’ve made to the appropriate agencies, I don’t have any evidence.”

He said he’s interested in evidence, but it doesn’t appear the investigative agencies have it.

The New York Times, citing anonymous U.S. officials, reported earlier this month that Trump campaign aides had “repeated” contacts with Russian intelligence, based on “phone records and intercepted calls.”

The California Republican said his committee has had a “long, ongoing” probe of Russian activities, which he had hoped wouldn’t become public. But based on news reports he was forced to make the probe public, and to expand it to include looking at the accusations against the Trump team.

Mr. Nunes said he had asked for evidence on three persons that reports said were involved in the conversations, and nothing has come back. While he refused to identify or speak for the investigative agencies, he said they don’t seem to have found anything themselves.

“The way it sounds like to me is it’s been looked into and there’s no evidence of anything there,” he said.

But Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, countered Mr. Nunes’s claims, saying the panel hasn’t gone deep enough to make any judgments at this point.

“The committee has reach no conclusion on whether or not the Trump campaign colluded,” the California Democrat said. He didn’t contradict Mr. Nunes’s claims, but said they haven’t gotten any documents or interview transcripts, nor have they interviewed any witnesses, so it’s “well premature to make and conclusion.”

Mr. Schiff also said he’s worried the committee won’t get enough help from the FBI, which has led a probe into Russian effort and which has more raw information. He said the FBI set a standard last year by talking about its probe into 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and it would be “insupportable” to do differently with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Nunes invited whistleblowers who may have evidence to come forward and speak directly to his committee.

“We will continue to take evidence, we will follow the facts where they lead,” he said, adding that anyone who he finds was talking to Russian agents “will get a subpoena and appear before the Congress.”

He also said he is interested in tracking down who “unmasked” former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was ousted from his position after he misled Vice President Mike Pence on his own communications with Russia’s ambassador during the transition.

Mr. Nunes said Mr. Flynn’s conversation was scooped up by intelligence agencies, though it was “inadvertent collection.” He said someone high up had to make the decision to reveal that communication, and Mr. Nunes said that person has questions to answer.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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