Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post yesterday, condemning his panel's chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), for pushing to release classified information, in a misleading way, for partisan political purposes. Nunes, Schiff wrote, has "crossed a dangerous line."
The question then turns to consequences. As CNBC reported, Democratic leaders this morning took their concerns to a new level.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday demanding the removal of Rep. Devin Nunes as Intelligence Committee chairman, saying he has "disgraced" the committee with "dishonest" actions related to an ongoing probe of Russia and the Trump presidential election campaign. [...]"It is long overdue that you, as Speaker, put an end to this charade and hold Congressman Nunes and all Congressional Republicans accountable to the oath they have taken to support and defend the Constitution, and protect the American people," Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote Ryan, R-Wisc."The integrity of the House is at stake," she wrote.
Soon after, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also made a formal appeal to the Republican House Speaker, urging him to remove Nunes as chair of the Intelligence Committee.
It's unlikely these appeals will work -- Paul Ryan has done nothing to interfere with his party's radical tactics of late, and in some cases, he's encouraged them -- but it's nevertheless a striking move on the part of Democratic leaders. It's not at all common for either party's congressional leadership to call for the ouster of a powerful committee chair in the middle of a session.
What's more, given the circumstances, the call for Nunes' removal is grounded in fact.
The controversy surrounding the chairman's potentially dangerous memo is reason alone to put his gavel in jeopardy. Making matters worse, after Republicans on the committee voted to release the document, Nunes changed elements of the memo -- on his own, without committee approval -- before sending it to Donald Trump for consideration.
But this isn't the first time Nunes has publicly humiliated himself in service of the White House. It was last spring that the Intelligence Committee chairman put on a ridiculous show, sharing overly dramatized findings with the White House that he'd received from ... the White House.
I've long argued that Devin Nunes shouldn't be leading an investigation; he should be the target of an investigation. (When the House Ethics Committee examined his bizarre behavior, members didn't have the necessary access to conduct a full inquiry.)
Indeed, as the scandal surrounding the White House and Russia intensifies, Nunes' objectivity has never existed: he was, after all, a member of the executive committee of Trump's transition team. One House Republican conceded on MSNBC last March, "You have to keep in mind who [Nunes] works for. He works for the president and answers to the president."
The question isn't why Democratic leaders called for Nunes' removal; the question is why Paul Ryan hasn't already done so.