WASHINGTON — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said Monday there is no evidence so far from the intelligence community of contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives.

“As of right now, I don’t have any evidence of any phone calls. It doesn’t mean they don’t exist. . . . What I’ve been told by many folks is that there’s nothing there,” said Nunes, R-Calif.

Nunes contended there was no need at this time for a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of contact between Russian officials and Trump campaign aides before the election. Instead, the Republican said that the “major crimes” that have been committed are leaking to the news media on the subject of Russia, as well as other accounts of what should be confidential dealings with the Trump White House, including calls with foreign leaders like the Australian prime minister.

“There’s been major crimes committed,” Nunes said, referring to the leaks. “What I’m concerned about is no one is focusing on major leaks that have occurred here. . . . We can’t run a government like this. A government can’t function with massive leaks at the highest level.”

It was the first time that a leading House Republican – in this case, the lawmaker who is leading the investigation in the lower chamber – has said flatly that he has not seen any evidence of inappropriate communications between Trump aides and Russia. The FBI is investigating Russia’s role in last year’s elections, and potential ties between Trump associates and Russia.

Nunes also rejected the call by Democrats that he would request Trump’s tax returns, which they believe would shine light on possible Trump business dealings with Russia. One Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, has said she is open to demanding the tax returns as part of the Senate probe.

Democrats pushed back forcefully on the idea that conclusions could be drawn even before the investigation has really gotten up and running. In a Monday afternoon news conference, top Intelligence Committee Democrat Adam Schiff, of California, argued that Nunes’ conclusions are “premature.”

Schiff noted that the committee has not yet received any documents, called any witnesses or even released the final agreement about the scope of its investigation.

“When you begin an investigation, you don’t begin by stating what you believe to be the conclusion,” Schiff told reporters.

The dueling press conferences are the latest sign that House Republicans and Democrats are divided about how to probe allegations that members of Trump’s team had improper contacts with Russian officials.

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