In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The claims by House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) that he has secret source with whom he met at the White House complex last week continue to confuse and frustrate his fellow lawmakers in both parties and both chambers of Congress.

On Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that while calls for Nunes' recusal from the ongoing investigation is "a decision the House should make," he told reporters: "We should know the sources and we should know the information."

Asked who "we" refers to, McCain answered: "The entire nation."

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A lawyer for President Donald Trump on Monday signaled that he will seek to dismiss a lawsuit filed against Trump in New York, arguing that the President is immune to lawsuits filed against him in state court.

Trump is looking to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed in New York state Supreme Court by Summer Zervos, a past contestant on Trump's reality television show, "The Apprentice." Zervos filed the lawsuit in January, after Trump denied her allegations that he kissed and groped her inappropriately in 2007 at a hotel in Los Angeles.

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It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours for the House Intelligence Committee.

Monday was an inflection point in the accelerating dysfunction of the bipartisan committee’s probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, with the ranking Democrat asking the Republican chairman to step down over his seemingly cozy relationship with the Trump administration.

Chased down the Capitol hallway on Tuesday by a swarm of reporters, Nunes denied that his approach to the committee’s investigation has been questionable.

“Why that would be?” Nunes said when asked if he would recuse himself.

“Why would I not [continue to serve as chair]?” he asked again, later in the conversation.

At issue is Chair Devin Nunes’s (R-CA) newly disclosed meeting with a source on White House grounds the day before he publicly alleged that communications involving President Donald Trump and his transition team were “incidentally” collected by the intelligence community. Nunes was himself on the transition team’s executive committee, and he brought these surveillance claims to Trump before briefing his own colleagues, who have yet to see the reports from which those claims were drawn.

This stonewalling has Democrats asking how Nunes can credibly be tasked with looking into Trump campaign staffers’ potential ties to Russian officials.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took to the Senate floor to ask House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to replace Nunes as chairman of the committee. By evening, there was a chorus calling for Nunes to simply recuse himself from the committee’s Russia probe, until it was ultimately joined by the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).

“I believe the public cannot have the necessary confidence that matters involving the President’s campaign or transition team can be objectively investigated or overseen by the Chairman,” Schiff said in a statement, saying he did not make the recommendation “lightly.”

Russia hawks on the other side of the aisle, including Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), were asking pointed questions about Nunes’ “objectivity” by Tuesday morning, though they still stopped short of asking him to step aside.

Then came fresh news that Nunes had ordered major scheduling changes in the committee’s work that are favorable to the Trump administration.

Days after unilaterally deciding to cancel a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, at which former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan were scheduled to testify, Nunes canceled all of the committee hearings planned for this week.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), a committee member, said she only learned about the abrupt change of plans from media reports.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the White House tried to block Yates from testifying to Congress, citing presidential communication privilege (the White House denied that report). Yates had warned the Trump administration that ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during the transition.

The tide of stories raising questions about Nunes’ motivation have not swayed him to step aside or influenced Ryan, the only person who could decide to replace Nunes as chairman.

“Speaker Ryan has full confidence that Chairman Nunes is conducting a thorough, fair, and credible investigation,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong told TPM in a statement.

If Ryan ultimately does decide that Nunes has become a distraction on this issue, he’s unlikely to do more than ask the chairman to recuse himself from investigations involving Russia and the Trump transition team, as Schiff requested.

Worth Hester, a specialist in congressional personnel at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute, told TPM that Ryan likely would then appoint one of the senior Republican members on the committee, such as Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) or Peter King (R-NY), to lead the investigation.

“Those people are already serving on the committee and know the issues,” Hester said in a phone interview.

Asked if a committee has ever disintegrated to the point where the ranking member has asked the chair to recuse himself, Hester laughed.

“In my 28 years of doing this, this is an incredibly odd situation,” he said.

“Can’t think of a time in modern history where such a thing could possibly have happened,” he added in a follow-up email. “Oversight/investigative issues aren’t pursued with the same vigor, if at all, when the party of the President is the majority party in the House (or Senate).  So, the opportunity for such a request to emerge just isn’t there.”

Time and time again, then-Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) -- who would become President Trump's Health and Human Services secretary -- told lawmakers at his January confirmation hearings that he would merely act as an "administrator" of the health care laws they passed.

"The good news for you, is that, as an administrator, if I am privileged to serve in that capacity, that I follow the policies adopted by the Congress of the United States and signed by the president," Price told a persistent Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), as she grilled him about what he thought about Obamacare's Essential Health Benefits coverage of drug treatments. "So we look forward to working with you to make certain those kind of things are covered."

The top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee is accusing Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin of violating federal ethics law by publicly promoting the film LEGO Batman, which his own company produced.

In a live interview with the news site Axios on Friday, Mnuchin was asked by an audience member to recommend a movie, to which he replied: "I am not promoting any product, but you should send all your kids to see LEGO Batman." Mnuchin added that Avatar, another film his company produced, is his "favorite movie."

It is unclear whether Mnuchin has fully divested from his company, Ratpac-Dune Entertainment, or whether he continues to personally profit from films like LEGO Batman.

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