Devin Nunes has announced he is stepping down from the House Intelligence investigation
Mike Rogers: Adam Schiff should follow suit
Correction: An earlier version gave an incorrect name name for Rep. Devin Nunes.
Editor’s Note: Mike Rogers is a CNN national security commentator, the host of CNN’s “Declassified” TV series and the past chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The views expressed are his own.
Representative Devin Nunes’ decision to recuse himself from the probe of Russian operations should be applauded. It won’t be in today’s environment and in the court of public opinion, but it should be applauded nonetheless. The attention was on him, his role and his actions, and not that of the committee or the issues it handles.
Equally, Representative Adam Schiff should consider recusing himself from the probe. For his part, Schiff suggested to the media that he had seen information on Russia-Trump campaign ties that was “the kind of evidence” that would be presented to a grand jury, adding that he had seen additional evidence, but not elaborating further.
Both Nunes and Schiff are equally to blame for the Committee’s loss of focus. How can a committee, which handles sensitive classified information, conduct its business when the purportedly secret information is discussed – even by insinuation – publicly in front of the media?
Whether Schiff chooses to do so or not, the committee should seize upon this development as an opportunity to refocus the Committee, get it back on track and carry out this important probe.
Over the last few weeks, the Committee’s primary mission has fundamentally been eclipsed. The ongoing drama of who knew what and when, who saw what, who said what and the bitter recriminations resulting from those questions overshadowed any real activity the committee should be undertaking.
Let us be clear there are real issues that the committee needs to address both immediately related to this probe, but more broadly related to the daily business of intelligence oversight and authorization.
The leaks related to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) actions should be handed over to the FBI for investigation. FISA warrants are amongst the most sensitive operations undertaken by the intelligence community and should never be used as a political tool, for anyone’s agenda, or anything beyond what it is meant to be used for – investigations of foreign intelligence actions.
The committee should focus on investigating Russia’s intentions, information operations capabilities and Moscow’s widespread use of social media as part of its propaganda and subversion campaigns. Make no mistake about it, the Russians are aiming to not only undermine and subvert our political process, but the political processes of our friends and allies in Europe.
It can only be hoped that today’s developments finally get the committee back on track and that it is no longer the story. The committee must focus on its important missions and not the bitter partisan rancor that has characterized the recent news cycles.
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Will it be easy? Certainly not. There is a lot of bad blood at the moment, but our representatives must move beyond this short-term rancor and promote civility, trust and respect in the Committee. The Committee also must work to develop a better public understanding of the issues facing the United States, and there are many: Russian information operations in America and against our allies; the risks posed by ISIS and its sympathizers; and nation-state and criminal cyber activities.
We face a complex and challenging international arena right now. The committee is one of the best instruments we have to understand those threats and provide the tools for our intelligence professionals to counteract those who would do us harm.