Tom Rooney: ‘The level of trust is just gone’ as parties fight over Russia investigation

Rooney says a real wall could be built.
The border fence in Arizona (Associated Press)
The border fence in Arizona (Associated Press)
Published Feb. 9, 2018

WASHINGTON – Just how poisonous is the partisanship and mistrust here?

So bad, says Florida Rep. Tom Rooney, that the House Intelligence Committee is planning on building a physical wall to separate Republican and Democratic staff who have long sat side by side.

"The level of trust is just gone," Rooney told reporters, adding that "certain things definitely suffer," like how to fund and conduct oversight over intelligence agencies.

More here from The Associated Press:

Much of the tension has been between the Republican chairman of the panel, California Rep. Devin Nunes, and the committee’s top Democrat, California Rep. Adam Schiff, who have been chiding each other since launching the Russia investigation together last year.

Schiff said dividing the two staffs would be a “terrible” mistake.

“While we have more than our share of difficulties, the important oversight work of the committee continues with our staff working together, irrespective of party,” Schiff said. “This would be a very destructive decision.”

He disputed Rooney’s account that the committee’s other work is suffering, noted the panel has recently passed bipartisan bills to renew intelligence programs. Schiff said he believes the committee has so far been able to “compartmentalize.”

A spokesman for Nunes did not respond to a request for comment on Rooney’s characterization of the committee.

Rooney expressed frustration with Democrats, but also with the breakdown of bipartisanship in general. He said another likely result is that Republicans and Democrats will issue separate reports on the Russia investigation, and partisans will only believe one report.

“As far as who is to blame for that — everyone is so eager to blame Devin, but I can’t tell you that it’s Devin’s fault, that the atmosphere down there is what it is,” Rooney said. “You could easily say the same thing about Adam on our side. But that doesn’t help.”

The tension has escalated in the last few weeks as Democrats have disputed the GOP memo, which was declassified by President Trump last week and released unredacted by the committee. The committee voted Monday to release a classified Democratic counter-memo, but Republicans have said they think it needs redactions. Trump has five days from the Monday vote to decide whether to allow its release.