House intel panel chairman downplays need for special prosecutor on Russia

The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee on Monday downplayed the need for a special prosecutor to probe contacts between the Russian government and members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, after a fellow Republican called for an independent investigation.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., told reporters in Washington that there was no evidence of serious crimes with regard to contact between Trump associates and Russian intelligence. He suggested it would be a “witch hunt” to go after officials just because of news reports, keeping focus instead on rooting out leakers.

The comments follow California Rep. Darrell Issa telling HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” on Friday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should appoint a special prosecutor. He said neither Sessions nor a deputy, who would both be Trump appointees, should handle such a probe.

“Openness and transparency are the best way,” Issa said.

Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told “Fox News Sunday” that he has confidence in Sessions, a Trump campaign supporter and former Alabama senator, and his judgment.

“If he wants to investigate this under the Department of Justice, that’s his prerogative,” Lewandowski said. “I have the utmost confidence in Attorney General Sessions. If he believes there is something there, he will investigate that. I think he is completely capable and competent to do so. … and I would leave it in his hands.”

The U.S. intelligence community has concluded Russia meddled in the 2016 White House race.

Trump has denied a connection to Russian President Vladimir Putin. And Lewandowski on Sunday denied “ever" having had contact with Russian officials or having knowledge of anybody on the campaign doing so.

Former Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn acknowledged talking to a Russian diplomat before becoming Trump’s national security adviser. He recently was forced to resign for not telling Vice President Pence about the call.