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House intelligence leader, White House say no proof of talks with Russia

"Please. It's just ridiculous," Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi said of the claim.

By Doug G. Ware
House intelligence leader, White House say no proof of talks with Russia
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Monday that he has seen nothing from the U.S. intelligence community to indicate there were repeated communications between President Donald Trump's campaign last year and Russian intelligence agents -- a claim decried by some Democrats. Pool Photo by Aude Guerrucci/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 27 (UPI) -- The leader of the House Intelligence Committee said Monday that it doesn't appear claims of contact between Russian security agents and President Donald Trump's campaign last year have any validity to them.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said he has not seen any evidence from the U.S. intelligence community pointing to repeated correspondence or collusion with Moscow in 2016 by campaign members for then-candidate Trump.

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"The way it sounds like to me is, it's been looked into and there's no evidence of anything there," Nunes said Monday.

"As of right now, I don't have any evidence of any phone calls. It doesn't mean they don't exist," he added. "What I've been told by many folks is that there's nothing there."

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The chairman's remarks are in stark conflict with reports earlier this month that Trump team members had regular contact with Russian intelligence officials before November's election. News reports said those claims were made by multiple U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials.

Allegations of potential discussions between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence have been under investigation for the last two weeks -- amid concerns that such collusion could have had an impact on Trump's surprise election night victory. The CIA and FBI have already concluded that Russia attempted to intervene in the vote with a series of cyberattacks.

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The FBI and National Security Agency have been reviewing intercepted phone calls between Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Russian agents, though the GOP strategist denied knowing they were intelligence agents.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has been perhaps the most insistent Democrat on continuing inquiries into the claims -- without the guidance of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

"If [Nunes] knew that from classified information, he shouldn't be saying that," Pelosi, D-Calif., countered at the National Press Club in Washington on Monday. "This is called stonewalling. What are the Republicans in Congress afraid of?"

"'We haven't looked into it but we know there's nothing there,'" she said, characterizing Nunes' comments. "Please. It's just ridiculous. ... that really raises serious questions about stonewalling."

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Last week, Trump's administration took additional heat on the issue when it became known that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus unsuccessfully asked the FBI this month to publicly discredit media reports that were saying there had been communication with Russia.

"How many people have to say that there's nothing there before you realize there's nothing there?" White House spokesman Sean Spicer said during Monday's briefing. "At some point, you do have to ask yourself what are you actually looking for. How many times do you have to come to the same conclusion before you take the answer?

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"All I'm saying is the people who have done the investigating about Russia overall and its activities in the United States ... haven't provided anything."

Spicer also said there is no need to enlist a special prosecutor to investigate, as many Democrats want, because both congressional intelligence committees and the American intelligence community have already investigated or are presently investigating the subject of Russian interference.

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