A dispute erupted on Monday between top US lawmakers on the intelligence committees in Congress, as Democrats suggested Republicans were incapable of conducting an independent investigation into alleged contacts between Donald Trump and Russian intelligence sources. Tensions between the two parties escalated when Devin Nunes, the Republican who chairs the House intelligence panel, claimed he had not seen any evidence that associates of Trump had communicated with Russian officials and said calls for a special committee to probe the issue would amount to a “witch hunt”. “As of right now, I don’t have any evidence of any phone calls,” Nunes, who served on Trump’s transition team, told reporters on Capitol Hill. “That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but I don’t have that. And what I’ve been told by many folks is that there’s nothing there.” He added: “At this time, I want to be very careful that we can’t just go on a witch-hunt against Americans because they appear in news stories.”
Within hours, Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, held a dueling press conference to both rebuke Nunes’s characterization of the investigation. He also criticized his Republican counterpart for disclosing information on the investigation that only just began. “When you begin an investigation, you don’t begin by stating what you believe to be the conclusion,” Schiff said.
“I don’t think that anybody should prejudge at this point whether there were contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, either directly or indirectly, through cutouts with business-people or any other way.”
“We as an Intelligence Committee doing an investigation don’t know,” he added. “We don’t know the answer.”
The spat comes amid an aggressive attempt by the White House to rebut reports that associates of Trump communicated frequently with Russian intelligence officials in the year leading up to November’s election.
Full Article: Dispute erupts over investigation into alleged Trump-Russia contacts | US news | The Guardian.