Buried in this CBS News story detailing an actual wall that is being built to seperate House Intel’s Democratic and Republican staff, there’s a nugget suggesting that the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) is investigating allegations of leaks coming from Committee Republicans. The revelation came from Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL), who has taken a prominent role in the committee’s Russia investigation.
Rooney said one reason for the tension is an erosion of trust, exacerbated by an ongoing ethics investigation into the “entire Republican staff,” including “the woman up front that answers the phone” for alleged leaks. He later added that the matter was being handled by the Office of Congressional Ethics.
The OCE would not comment to me on Rooney’s remark, and Rooney’s office did not return my inquiry for more details. But because of how OCE works, we may eventually learn what’s going on here.
It’s important to note that the OCE is seperate from the House Committee on Ethics, which is made up of House members. The latter oversaw the investigation into House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes’ alleged disclosure of classified information (for which he was cleared). The former was formed in 2008 and is made up of private citizens, both on its staff and board. It can refer allegations of wrongdoing to the House Ethics Committee but is not authorized to make determinations of wrongdoing, nor can it sanction wrongdoers. (You can read more about its process and role here.)
It’s also important to note that, in the case that the OCE does make a referral for further review to the House Ethics Committee, there is a process in place that requires the House Committee to eventually make the OCE’s report public. That means that whatever Rooney was referring to here will, quite possibly, become public.