Andrew Janz, the Fresno County prosecutor and Democrat challenging Rep. Devin Nunes’ re-election bid, has called for the Tulare Republican to once again step away from any investigation into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Janz pointed to a New York Times report that says the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website funded by billionaire Republican donor Paul Singer, informed the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that it hired research firm Fusion GPS in 2015 to investigate Donald Trump and other presidential candidates. The website said it stopped using the firm to investigate Trump after he clinched the Republican nomination.
At the end of 2015, Fusion GPS produced a document written by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele commonly known as the Trump dossier or Steele dossier. The document, funded by Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, lists many unconfirmed ties between Trump and the Russian government.
The Free Beacon released a statement saying none of the information it paid Fusion GPS to dig up was in the dossier.
Although Singer apparently has not been linked to the actual dossier, Janz said Thursday that Nunes, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, should not be involved in this investigation. According to election documents, Singer donated $5,400 to Nunes’ campaign committee in April 2015 – meaning the Free Beacon testimony Nunes presumably received came from a website funded by his donor.
“This calls into question Rep. Nunes’ ability to lead the House investigation into these matters – having received money from someone who funded the dossier,” Janz said. He added that Nunes should, at the least, return Singer’s donation if he plans to keep gathering evidence from his website.
Janz said the distinction that the Free Beacon’s hiring of Fusion GPS may not have led directly to the dossier is irrelevant. Singer’s website hired Fusion to do opposition research on Trump, and that research was continued by the Clinton campaign.
A spokesman for Nunes said the congressman had no comment on Janz’s statements.
Nunes previously stepped away from the House’s investigation in April after critics called for him to recuse himself because of his position on Trump’s transition team and other perceived ties to the president. Nunes was then accused of sharing classified information from the investigation with outside sources, but the House Ethics Committee cleared him of those allegations in December.
Janz said the Free Beacon testimony was not a coincidence and that Republicans have a hard time admitting it was their side that got the Trump dossier rolling. He added that no one knows exactly who or what Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed to investigate Russian intervention in the election, is looking at as part of his investigation.
“As a prosecutor, I never want to jump to any conclusions,” Janz said. “But I believe Devin Nunes should, for his own good, step aside from any Trump or Russia investigation until (Mueller’s investigation) is completed.”
Bobby Bliatout, another Democrat who has officially filed to challenge Nunes, said Tuesday the congressman already should have been removed from investigations of Russia regardless of Singer’s donations. He called Nunes’ continued involvement in the House’s investigation “a waste of taxpayer money.”
“This goes to further show (Nunes’) motivation for his own self-preservation is above anything else,” said Bliatout, the CEO of a local healthcare nonprofit. “He doesn’t care about us in the Valley – only working on this Trump dossier.”