Under the "leadership" of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the House Intelligence Committee has seen its reputation falter badly. The chairman has repeatedly embarrassed himself with his partisan antics, and House Democrats have taken the unusual step of imploring Republican leaders to replace Nunes on the panel with a more responsible lawmaker.
But to assume conditions can't get worse would be a mistake. CBS News had this unexpected report this morning:
In a sign of increasing partisan hostilities, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee plan to construct a wall -- a physical partition -- separating Republican and Democratic staff members in the committee's secure spaces, according to multiple committee sources. It's expected to happen this spring.For now, some Republican committee members deny knowing anything about it, while strongly suggesting the division is the brainchild of the committee's chairman, Devin Nunes, R-California."I'm not part of that decision," said Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas. "You've got to talk to Devin. I don't know what they're trying to do one way or the other."
It's worth emphasizing that CBS News' report hasn't been independently confirmed by NBC News or MSNBC.
That said, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the panel, suggested he's at least heard about the partition plan. "We have heard reports that the chairman may seek to erect a 'wall' to divide the staff of the intelligence committee on a partisan basis -- this would be a terrible mistake," Schiff said. "While we have more than our share of difficulties, the important oversight work of the committee continues with our staff working together irrespective of party. This would be a very destructive decision."
Then again, Devin Nunes has already made his share of destructive decisions, so I suppose this would simply be added to the list.
CBS News' report added, "While other House committees commonly have some divide between their majority and minority staff, for a committee whose history, broadly, and whose burden, arguably, is to be functionally bipartisan, the plan for the wall -- in all its unfortunate symbolism -- is a troubling sign of things to come."
Watch this space.