While Democrats vow to investigate the subpoenas, the GOP is almost unified in its response: The government should investigate leaks of classified information, even if that sweeps up members of the opposite political party — as long as it is within the confines of the law. And they say that applies to Democratic presidents, too.
“If you’re leaking, I don’t care what your motives are or who you are, you should be investigated for that — whether you’re a friend of the president or not a friend of the president,” Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview. “I would hope I’d say the same thing about President Biden. If he’s investigating Devin Nunes and he has reason to, then let the investigation go forward.”
Republicans want to let the Justice Department’s internal watchdog finish its work, with House GOP Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) last week affirming the importance of an outside conclusion on “whether there was any overreach.”
The Justice Department’s hunt to find the source of leaks related to the probe of Trump’s ties to Russia swept up at least three prominent figures whom the former president considered his political opponents, including House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), who sits on that panel. The leak hunt subpoenas, first reported by The New York Times this month, have sparked a firestorm as Democrats call for testimony on whether Trump may have abused his power.
“What the administration did, the Justice Department, the leadership of the former President goes even beyond Richard Nixon,” Pelosi said on CNN last week.
One of the only Republicans joining her in criticizing the Trump Justice Department’s behavior is himself under the scrutiny of a federal sex trafficking investigation.
“DOJ has a very nasty tendency to target its critics, Republican and Democrat,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said in a statement earlier this month. “I stand against all of it, no matter how much I personally dislike Schiff.”
No GOP lawmakers have acknowledged that their data was swept up into the probe.
Several, such as Stewart and Cheney, made clear that no president should use the powers of government strictly to go after political enemies. But the lack of sympathy among House Intelligence Committee Republicans for Schiff and Swalwell’s predicament recalls the bitter polarization that enveloped the panel in 2017 as it investigated whether members of the Trump campaign or the candidate himself sought to tip the scales of the election.
It was also then, Republicans claim, that the committee began leaking like a sieve — a trend they say continued through House Democrats’ first impeachment inquiry into Trump’s contacts with Ukraine in 2019.