Strengthening Checks and Balances

Chairman Nunes Violated Basic Principles of Oversight, House Leadership Must Act

Photo: LFM/Flickr

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) calls on House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI-1) to demonstrate the leadership’s commitment to preserving the separation of powers that provide the checks and balances required by the Constitution. The basic principles of Congressional oversight are being forgotten as Congress is struggling to obtain answers about Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and the possibility of coordination or collusion with the Trump campaign.

POGO has been holding training sessions for Congressional staff on how to conduct meaningful, bipartisan oversight investigations for more than a decade. The reported actions of the investigation’s leader, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) Chairman Devin Nunes (CA-22), violate the most basic tenets of such oversight, which include:

Establishing leadership that is beyond reproach Establishing and following practices that facilitate bipartisanship Establishing and following ground rules that protect the investigation from interference Establishing a timeline and hearing schedule that presumes timeliness and transparency

Chairman Nunes’ actions, which may have included coordinating with the subject of his investigation, have improperly politicized the probe and invited interference into his committee’s work.

Whether the probe into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia is done by existing Congressional committees, a special select committee, or some other entity, Congress’s effort to get to the bottom of these matters needs to meet the above criteria. In POGO’s view, the type of body conducting the investigation is less important than whether those elements are in place.

POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian said:

“Every day seems to bring new revelations of an ill-considered action on the part of Chairman Nunes, with the apparent blessing of House leadership. Those actions consistently draw focus and energy away from the core matters of this inquiry. Each of these events are destroying public confidence in the integrity of the investigation, not to mention the institution of Congress.

“We do not need sideshows on top of sideshows. We need to see a Congress focused on doing its job and addressing the most serious issues of our day in a meaningful, credible way that will provide answers Americans deserve.”