House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Ca.) was allowed to leave a hearing when Democrats began asking him questions regarding the Russia probe. This was characterized as highly unusual by many attendees. The committee was in session to hear Nunes testify about a bill, but some of the Democrat members decided it was an opportunity to get information from Nunes regarding the special investigation he led into Russian election tampering.
As House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Nunes led an investigation into the allegations of Russian tampering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Nunes split the committee, freezing out Democrat members of the committee from seeing what the Republican members were doing. This prompted dual partisan papers concluding two very different findings. In Nunes case, he found there was no election tampering. As was pointed out by The Hill, the Senate counterpart committee concluded in May that election tampering by Russia did take place. This prompted many questions by lawmakers and the press regarding how two different bipartisan committees with the same evidence could come up with two conclusions that were so markedly different.
Nunes has avoided answering any of those questions, which is why Democrats took the opportunity to try to grill him about it while he was testifying. However, Rep. Pete Sessions, who chairs the Rules Committee would have none of it. According to reports at CNN, Caroline Boothe, a spokeswoman for the Rules Committee, stated that Democrats were made aware prior to the meeting that Nunes would only be there to give his statement and would then leave without opening the floor to questions regarding the intelligence bill. Rep. Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey was going to handle that. Then Boothe backtracked and said that Democrats were not made aware of the arrangement due to an oversight.
Rep. Jim McGovern couldn’t believe the way the situation was handled.
“In all my years on the Rules Committee, I don’t ever recall an instance where any member was prevented from asking questions of a witness.”
After Nunes gave his statement, Sessions opened the floor to questions while Nunes was still in the witness seat, which by rules of order means he was supposed to answer questions posed to him. Instead, Sessions called a five-minute recess as soon as Rep. Norma Torres of California began asking questions about Jared Kushner and statements he made to the House Intelligence Committee. Neither Nunes nor Sessions have commented about the incident at this time.