IRVINE, Calif — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said Saturday there “was never any collusion between Donald Trump and the Russians,” casting himself as a victim of media bias and calling on Washington to “stop chasing Russian ghosts around the closet.”
The California Republican’s remarks came a day after Trump appeared to acknowledge he was under investigation for firing FBI Director James Comey, as special counsel Robert Mueller probes Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Nunes, addressing GOP donors in Orange County, said that after searching for any evidence of collusion, “I said ‘OK, I don’t think there’s any collusion here.’ And what happened to me? All the major papers in the country did a total character assassination on me. Why? Because I was telling the truth, that there was never any collusion between Donald Trump and the Russians.”
Now, Nunes said, “I have to ask myself, Was this really an investigation in search of a crime? And I will tell you, if that’s what it ends up being, there will be a huge, huge division in this country.”
Nunes, who served on Trump’s transition team, in April stepped aside from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, after the House Ethics Committee announced it was investigating his handling of classified information.
The keynote speaker at the Orange County Republican Party’s annual Flag Day Salute dinner, Nunes suggested the Russia investigation was distracting Washington from more pressing policy concerns.
He said Republicans must do a “better job selling” their health care overhaul, for example, but that “part of [it] also means that we have to stop chasing Russian ghosts around the closet and actually get to real work.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in May added Nunes to its list of California targets, despite his district being a traditionally Republican one. But Orange County is far more competitive, and Republicans are bracing for challenges to incumbents there.
The crowd applauded Nunes as he dismissed the Russia investigation and railed against news reporters, faulting the media for the shooting at a congressional baseball practice last week.
“Every night there’s a news story that runs that … has something in common,” he said. “It’s anti-Trump, anti-Republican, and promotes this nonsense that you’re seeing with protesters everywhere. And they continue to promote it, which continues to promote violence. And you see the latest fiasco with, you know, cutting off Donald Trump’s head to attacking him on stage, or having a Julius Caesar play look like it’s him on stage. So, it didn’t surprise me, quite frankly.”