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Special House panel should probe Trump dealings with Russia

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.,

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., right, accompanied by the committee's ranking member, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., talks to reporters, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, March, 15, 2017. Credit: AP

The chairman of the congressional committee probing whether Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election was coordinated with Donald Trump’s campaign has now apologized to his colleagues for a partisan stunt. But Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican, can’t restore the credibility of his committee.

On Wednesday afternoon, without informing his members, Nunes held a news conference and then visited the White House to advise the president that he learned about surveillance at Trump Tower that may have incidentally collected information about those on the president-elect’s transition team.

He provided no evidence, proved nothing and now says he doesn’t know for sure it happened.

But Nunes’ unorthodox move allowed the president to claim he was “somewhat” vindicated for his widely denounced tweet that Barack Obama wiretapped his phone and was a bad or sick person.

As we learned Monday from FBI Director James Comey, there is a criminal investigation underway to determine whether there was collusion between the campaign and operatives for the Kremlin. But Congress, as Nunes forgot, is an independent branch of government that oversees the executive branch, including the FBI. Nunes declined to answer a question Thursday about whether it was actually the White House that gave him this new “intelligence.”

Right now, conspiracy theories abound and the nation needs some facts. Were Team Trump communications picked up in an unrelated foreign surveillance probe and then deliberately leaked by the Obama administration? Were there illegal contacts between Team Trump and Russian operatives?

Trump is not vindicated, but Nunes, a senior member of the transition team, can no longer be trusted to lead an independent, bipartisan probe. The House of Representatives must create a special committee take over this major investigation. — The editorial board


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