Watchdog files ethics complaint against House Intel staff over alleged text message leak

The messages appeared in a Fox News article in February.

— -- A government watchdog group filed a new ethics complaint against House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and majority committee staff on Thursday following a report that Senate investigators have determined House Republicans leaked private text messages related to the ongoing probe of Russian election interference.

According to the New York Times, the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee believe Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee leaked a text message exchange between Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the Senate panel's top Democrat, and Adam Waldman, a lawyer representing a Russian oligarch, to Fox News in February.

The incident raises questions about whether the partisan infighting that has slowed the House probe is suddenly impacting Senate investigators as well.

The Campaign for Accountability, a liberal watchdog group based in Washington, D.C., amended an earlier complaint filed with the Office of Government Ethics and called for an investigation into whether Nunes and his staff violated House and committee rules by "leaking information provided to the committee during the course of an ongoing investigation."

A committee spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

The messages, which appeared in a Fox News article in February, detailed efforts to arrange a meeting with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled the infamous dossier of unverified allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents.

Warner and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, recently held a rare meeting with Speaker Ryan. A Congressional source familiar with the meeting tells ABC News that concerns about House Republicans on the Intelligence Committee were aired in that meeting.

"The speaker heard the senators on their concerns and encouraged them to take them up directly with their counterparts," a spokesperson for Speaker Ryan told ABC News.

Neither Warner nor Burr would discuss the particulars of the meeting with ABC News.

“We talked to the Speaker about the extent of our [Russian meddling] investigation, and that was the extent of it,” Burr told ABC News. “We made no requests of the Speaker. Zero. Nada.”

Warner, however, questioned some of his colleagues’ commitment to the investigation.

“We are not going to let any individual or any group interfere with this bipartisan effort to get to the truth,” Warner said. “I know we’re looking for the truth. I’m not sure that the same can be said about all the other efforts.”

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, addressed the controversy on CNN on Thursday, saying the leak is “part of a pattern” from House Republicans.

Asked explicitly about whether Nunes was responsible for the leaks, Schiff said, “You would have to ask him, but it clearly came from the majority.”