Both the GOP chairman and Democratic ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee have traded barbs over the stalled progress of their investigation into the Russian government's alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The tensions between the two committee leaders arrive amid growing calls for an independent probe.
On March 29, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California took to social media to indirectly blast the committee chairman, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California, for cancelling a public hearing, CNBC reports.
On March 24, Nunes canceled the scheduled testimony of former CIA director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. The hearing had been set to take place on March 27.
That same day, the Department of Justice had sent Yates' attorney a letter asserting that she should not testify before the committee, citing that it would violate presidential communications privilege. White House press secretary Sean Spicer has stated that any suggestion that the White House has influenced Nunes' decision to cancel her testimony is false, The Washington Post reports.
On March 27, Nunes canceled all of the committee meetings that had been scheduled for the week, according to the Independent.
Schiff took to Twitter to wonder aloud why the public hearing could not be scheduled again.
"Sally Yates is willing to testify, WH says they want her to testify, public wants to hear from her, Brennan and Clapper... what's the holdup?" Schiff tweeted.
Tensions have been high in the committee following Schiff's call for Nunes to recuse himself from the Russian investigation. On March 22, Nunes angered Democratic members of the committee by publicly airing that members of the Trump transition team had been incidentally surveilled. The chairman, who had been a member of the transition team, briefed President Donald Trump on the information before sharing it with other members of his committee.
Nunes has declined to name the source who gave him that intelligence, but has disclosed that he had met with them on the White House on Mar. 21, a day before he held his press conference.
The same morning that Schiff expressed his disapproval with how the investigation was proceeding, Nunes blasted Democrats on the Intelligence Committee in an interview with NBC.
"We're beginning to figure out who's actually serious about the investigation," Nunes said, according to NBC reporter Bradd Jaffy on Twitter. "Because it appears like the Democrats aren't really serious about this investigation."
The committee chairman accused his Democratic colleagues of not submitting or a witness list or reading intelligence reports, adding "at the end of the day, we're going to do an investigation with our without them, and if they want to participate that's fine, but the facts of the matter are pretty clear."
A spokesman for Schiff pushed back on Nunes' assertion, noting that Democrats on the committee had requested that Yates, Clapper and Brennan testify and that it was Nunes who had canceled their hearing.
The escalating tensions between Nunes and Schiff have prompted Democratic lawmakers and several of their GOP counterparts to call for an independent investigation into the matter.
Republican Sen. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania believes the House Intelligence Committee is becoming compromised by partisan infighting.
"My sense right now is the House is in a situation where the issue has become overly politicized," Dent told Politico. "It doesn't seem like there's much cooperation on either side."