Interviews

Nunes warns against 'witch hunt' over Russia allegations

House Intelligence chair weighs in on 'Your World'

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," February 27, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Do you have a problem with the White House reaching out to the chairs of the Intelligence Committees and having them knock down stories on this?

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS., SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The White House should be talking with our members on a daily basis.

And our Intelligence committees have been looking into this.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: But this statement made by Chairman Nunes, that really raises serious questions about stonewalling, in my view.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right.

What Nancy Pelosi there at the end is talking about is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee over his investigation into possible contact between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign, saying at the time now is not the time to warrant a special prosecutor or any expanded beyond what they're doing.

The California Republican Congressman Devin Nunes is the chairman of that Intelligence Committee. He joins us right now.

Sir, very good to have you.

REP. DEVIN NUNES, R-CALIF.: Thanks, Neil.

CAVUTO: You heard what Nancy Pelosi said, all but saying you're stonewalling. What do you think?

NUNES: Yes, it's a little odd of a comment to -- for the minority leader to make.

Look, we have long been investigating Russia. A year ago, I said that this was the largest intelligence failure since 9/11. And, clearly, the Democrats last year didn't pay attention. Now they're suddenly paying attention, which is a good thing.

What I'm trying to stop, Neil, here is that just because three U.S. citizens show up in a New York Times article, where there's no evidence that they actually -- that I have been presented, other than a New York Times article, that they were talking to the Russians, I'm not going to subpoena Americans in and revert back to some form of McCarthyism here in the Congress.

And I think all members of Congress ought to have a cool head and really relax in terms of getting into what American citizens and -- are we going to bring before Congress, until there's some real evidence?

CAVUTO: All right. But I think what your colleague Darrell Issa had been arguing is that you can't know that evidence unless you start aggressively going after it. You're going to need, he said, to use the special prosecutor statute and office, that you can't just give it to your deputy.

That's essentially another political appointee, referring to the attorney general.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Go ahead.

NUNES: We're going through all the evidence.

And, you know, the idea of a special prosecutor to go on a witch-hunt against the American people, that's something that the legislative branch of government out to be really concerned about. And I would caution all of my colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, to be very careful with that.

So, like I said, we have long been investigating Russia. We welcome people to come in and join the effort to investigate Russia. We will work with all of our intelligence agencies.

But I will tell you, because an American citizen shows up in some press report somewhere, everyone ought to be on the same page on this, that we should not just be subpoenaing them to Congress or throwing them over to a special prosecutor to go investigate. That is what I would call McCarthyism witch-hunt.

CAVUTO: You know, Congressman, I'm just curious.

Your minority member colleague, Adam Schiff, has indicated that we need a get a full debriefing on everything the FBI has regarding this investigation. But he didn't seem to express much hope, short of taking more dramatic action on your part, that we would get it.

What do you think of that?

NUNES: No, no, I think -- I agree with ranking member Schiff on this, is, we do want a full accounting of everything that all the intelligence agencies have. We're on the same page on that.

The only thing where I think it gets a little iffy is where this -- if there's this phone transcript of American citizens, I don't think we should get in the business of reviewing phone transcripts. I think that's a little freaky. And I don't think we should go there at this point.

CAVUTO: All right, so part of that was an argument that General Flynn, Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, should testify on whatever Russian contacts he had. Do you agree with that?

NUNES: Well, General Flynn is more than welcome to come and testify if he would like.

At this point, until we get more information from the FBI, which we want to get, at this point, I don't have enough information to even bring him before the committee. Look, I would love to hear from him if he would like to come and talk to us.

But, look, the fact that he gave a speech back in 2015, that's well-known.  The fact that R.T. is a propaganda arm of the Russian government, that is well-known. But in terms of having any evidence that he spoke to anyone but the Russian ambassador, we don't have that.

The discussions he had with the Russian ambassador, I think, were quite appropriate, from what I -- at least from what I have been briefed on. And so we will go from there. We will let the facts lead us where they do.

But, like I said, we're not going to start listening in on Americans' phone calls.

CAVUTO: Have you spoken to the FBI director?

NUNES: Yes. We're in constant contact with the FBI and other intelligence agencies. And we will continue to do that, and we will continue to get as much information as we can down to the Intelligence Committee.

CAVUTO: And in part of those discussions, sir, is it safe to say there might be an advantage to having him either testify to your committee as a whole or to relay whether -- share any information he has regarding any conversations U.S. and/or Russian officials might have had?

NUNES: The FBI regularly testifies before our committee.

I would expect that to continue. I don't think we have -- I think they are going to be here -- in the next couple weeks, they will be here. I'm not sure if it's Director Comey or not.

CAVUTO: Right.

NUNES: But we will be receiving FBI briefings.

CAVUTO: All right, now, do you have any evidence at this point or even conjecture that the Russian and Trump officials talked to each other after President Obama kicked those Russian diplomats out of the country, 35 of them, in the waning weeks of his administration?

NUNES: No, other than General Flynn talking to the ambassador, which was illegally leaked, and the name unmasked, we don't have any Trump officials or people even related to the Trump campaign that I know of talking to Russian officials.

And, in fact, we don't even have any information before the election of Trump campaign people talking to government officials. But, look, I'm very interested. Republicans or Democrats, if people are talking to Russian agents, we want to know about that.

CAVUTO: Yes.

President Trump has said in a tweet out Sunday, sir, that Russia talk is fake news put out by the Dems and played up by the media in order to mask the big election defeat and the illegal leaks.

What did you think of that?

NUNES: Well, I do think that the news media is becoming more and more -- they're getting to a more and more dangerous place where they're getting I think in the realm of fake news.

Not your show, of course, Neil, but I do think that we're in a dangerous spot right now. And it worries me that one of the reasons I held a press conference this morning was because of news stories that I think were very questionable about whether or not I was being transparent with the press.

And if you watched me in that, I had all the press there, all the press on Capitol Hill there. And they all were there when I said, look, I briefed off of you a couple times 10 days ago after that New York Times story came out, which they all agreed that they had. So, nobody challenged me on that.

CAVUTO: But I guess what they're concerned about, just to be clear, sir, is that, as you said this morning, once we begin to look at the evidence, and if we find that any American had any contact with Russian agents or anybody affiliated with the Russian government, then we would be glad to, in other words, follow up on this with something bigger.

But I didn't understand what you were referring to.

NUNES: Yes, look, if we have -- if any of the intelligence agencies come to us with specific information about, let's say, I said this morning, Reince Priebus in contact with known Russian agents, believe me, Reince Priebus will be subpoenaed before the House Intelligence Committee.

CAVUTO: But you have no evidence right now to say that Russian and/our American, and Trump officials, more to the point, either before his inauguration or after consulted or talked about any of this?

NUNES: That is correct. That is correct.

CAVUTO: All right, so there's nothing to indicate that there was no tit for tat in any of those conversations?

NUNES: That is correct, other than General Flynn talking to the Russian ambassador, which that was his job to do, to talk to foreign leaders and ambassadors in the United States.

CAVUTO: I see.

Switching very quickly, if you will indulge me, you also serve on the House Ways and Means Committee. And that is going to be instrumental in this tax package, also on a variety of other matters.

Is it fair to say that this debate back and forth with repealing and replacing ObamaCare could significantly push back the whole tax thing?

NUNES: No, I think what you're going to see is, we're working to get the tax reform piece at least introduced, so that we can begin educating the American public why we have to go down the path that go down in order to fundamentally change the tax code. That is going to run its own parallel course.

As it relates to repealing and replacing ObamaCare, we're trying to get as much into the repeal and replace bill as possible, because there, as you know, it only takes 50 votes plus one in the Senate to pass.

And the more that we can get done in that bill, which is why it's taking a long time, because we're having to get scores, we're having a draft, but I am -- I think I'm optimistic that we will have a bill in the next few weeks.

CAVUTO: OK.

Chairman, thank you very, very much.

NUNES: My pleasure, Neil. Thank you.

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