Republican Behind Secret Memo Should 'Step Aside,' Adam Schiff Says

Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, speaks during an interview with Mike Allen of Axios on January 31 in Washington, D.C. At a separate event on February 1, he spoke about Representative Devin Nunes. Mark Wilson/Getty

The Republican leading the House Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian election meddling should "step aside" and let "someone credible" take charge, the top Democrat on the panel said at an event.

Speaking at the Perry World House at the University of Pennsylvania on Thursday, Representative Adam Schiff, the Democratic ranking member of the committee, said during a question-and-answer session: "Should he step aside? Yes…. I think we need someone credible leading the investigation."

He was referring to Representative Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the committee. Nunes is also the author of a controversial memo alleging misconduct by the FBI and the Department of Justice that the White House is considering for public release. A spokesman for Nunes was not immediately available for comment.

Related: Schiff: Nunes "secretly altered" memo before giving to White House

Schiff and Nunes have been sparring over that memo, which Schiff has claimed misrepresents the classified source material on which it is based. On Monday, their committee voted to make the document public, pending approval by President Donald Trump. The Democrats on the panel have compiled their own memo, but the committee voted down a call to also make that one public.

On Wednesday night, Schiff claimed that before providing it to the White House, Nunes "secretly altered" the version of the memo that the lawmakers had reviewed. He called for the panel to withdraw the document from consideration for release and to allow the committee to review the updated document.

Jack Langer, a spokesman for Nunes and the committee, said in a statement that the edits were "minor…including grammatical fixes and two edits requested by the FBI and by the minority themselves."

Nunes initially did step aside from the panel's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and any links to political campaigns. He did so after the House Ethics Committee opened an investigation last April into allegations that he made unauthorized disclosures of classified material. He called the charges "entirely false and politically motivated." Representative Mike Conaway, a committee member, took over the Russia probe.

But Democrats on the committee claimed Nunes continued to involve himself. "I think that there's probably still a line of communication, at least between Devin Nunes and the White House," Representative Mike Quigley told Newsweek last October about the investigation. "Devin Nunes still has his thumb on the scale."

In early December, the House Ethics Committee said it had completed its review and would take no action against Nunes. Conaway said at the time that he would continue overseeing the Russia effort. Representative Chris Stewart, a Republican on the panel, told Newsweek in early January that Conaway was continuing to run the probe and that he did not recall Nunes attending any witness interviews.

Stewart also pointed out that despite reports calling it a "recusal," Nunes had only informally stepped aside from the investigation. Nunes has said the same, reportedly once telling a local radio station, "I never recused myself.... This was essentially made up by the media."

"He made the statement that he never really left, and I think that was all too true," Schiff told Newsweek in early January. "Throughout the period when he was supposed to have recused himself, he nevertheless exercised some of the most important powers of the investigation." Schiff was referring to the chairman's authority to issue subpoenas and schedule hearings and witness interviews. "When the majority refused to issue subpoenas, that was his decision. When the majority issued subpoenas without informing the minority, that was his decision."

Schiff added at the time, "He has continued to make critical decisions, some of which have prevented us from doing the work we need to do."