On Thursday, House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes Apologized to Intel. Committee Members—But Won’t Explain His Stunt:
On Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chair of the House intelligence committee, blew up the congressional intelligence oversight process. On Thursday morning, at a private committee meeting, he apologized to his colleagues. But, according to a committee source, Nunes would not say what he thought he had done wrong or explain his actions.
Without consulting with the members of his committee—Republicans and Democrats—Nunes on Wednesday held two press conferences, during which he claimed he had been given information indicating that members of Donald Trump’s presidential transition team, including possibly Trump, were picked up during lawfully authorized intelligence surveillance of other targets and that their identities were disclosed in intelligence reporting based on these intercepts. Nunes also rushed to the White House to share this information with Trump.
Note: House Intelligence chair partially backs off claim about surveillance of Trump transition team: “The head of the House Intelligence Committee partially backed away from his dramatic claim [on Wednesday] that officials in President Trump’s transition team had been subjects of surveillance by U.S. intelligence agencies, with an aide saying that Chairman Devin Nunes did not know “for sure.” “Until Nunes sees the actual documents, he does not know whether any of the transition officials were actually part of the surveilled conversations or were just talked about by others, spokesman Jack Langer said Thursday.” “He’ll have to get all the documents he requested from the [intelligence community] about this before he knows for sure,” Langer said.
With these actions, Nunes committed multiple wrongs. He may have disclosed classified information (only two days after railing against leaks during a public hearing on the Trump-Russia scandal and Moscow’s interference in the 2016 campaign). He blindsided his committee’s members and violated the long-standing tradition of bipartisan cooperation within the intelligence committees. He possibly mischaracterized the information he claimed to have. (Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the senior Democrat on the panel, later said it was not clear the identities of the Trump associates were actually “unmasked” in the intelligence reports. Also, the unmasking of people who are captured in what’s known as “incidental collection” can under certain circumstances be disclosed within classified intelligence reports.)
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After the Thursday morning meeting, Rep. Jackie Speier (Calif.), one of the committee’s Democrats, told reporters that Nunes had apologized to committee members. Another committee source confirms that Nunes did express his regrets but adds that Nunes would not tell committee members where the information he cited had come from. Nunes did promise, according to this source, that he would share the material with his colleagues on Friday.
That didn’t happen. The Hill reports, Intel chair won’t reveal source on Trump team surveillance to panel’s top Dem:
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) told reporters Thursday that he wouldn’t reveal to the top Democrat on the panel his source behind claims that the intelligence community incidentally collected information on President Trump’s transition team.
CNN’s Manu Raju said Thursday he was told by Nunes that despite concerns from the Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and others, he would not share where he got the information.
Frustrated Democrats from the House Intelligence Committee on Friday morning said they still have not seen intelligence from Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) that he says shows some form of potentially inappropriate surveillance or unmasking of Trump campaign associates. Intelligence Dems still in the dark about surveillance documents: lawmakers:
“Nothing — zero. He’s provided absolutely nothing,” ranking member Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said. “He’s not sharing what he told us yesterday he would share.”
Asked if he was concerned Nunes was withholding information from Democrats, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) said, “Well, we haven’t got the information that he talked about the other day.”
Nunes on Thursday morning apologized to committee Democrats for going public with the information before speaking to them — and promised to share information with the minority about his findings.
According to Nunes, he saw the documents at the agency where they are housed. He has provided vague and at times contradictory answers as to whether Trump associates were directly involved, saying that he is waiting to receive more information from the National Security Agency (NSA).
He told reporters Friday morning that the NSA was complying fully but that he did not expect to receive all of that documentation on Friday, as had been previously expected.
Prior to Nunes’s startling disclosure earlier this week, Nunes and Schiff together had sent a joint request for information that the chair said Friday “should encompass everything that I’ve seen.”
Among other things, the letter demands to know who in U.S. government requested or authorized the unmasking of anyone associated with the Trump campaign.
“It is possible that we will receive documents from the NSA today as we have requested, but I want to caution that I don’t expect the entirety of everything that we need today,” Nunes said.
At this point, Nunes appears to be the only lawmaker who has seen the intelligence documents that he says “alarmed” him enough to brief the president immediately.
Democrats are outraged by Nunes’s handling of his discovery and have called for an independent commission to take over the investigation.
“It looks like he’s running his own intelligence service at this point. He’s collecting classified information and briefing the president,” Swalwell said.
Minority members met behind closed doors on Friday morning to “figure out what’s next,” Swalwell said. In the past, they have threatened to walk away from the investigation if they feel that it is not being handled ethically.
Quigley said that while some committee Democrats were frustrated enough to want to walk away, there was a recognition that if they do so, they would be completely cutting off their ability to influence the investigation.
Chairman Nunes roiled the House Intelligence Committee again on Friday when he abruptly canceled an open committee hearing for Tuesday. House Intelligence Committee chairman abruptly cancels open hearing on Russia:
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has abruptly canceled a public hearing scheduled for next Tuesday with former DNI director James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. The hearing is part of the committee’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, including whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives.
The ranking member of the Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), characterized Nunes’ decision as an effort to choke off public information about the inquiry. Schiff Says Nunes Canceled Russia Hearing to Protect Trump:
Nunes explained that the hearing would be postponed, so as to allow FBI director James Comey and NSA director Mike Rogers to address the committee in closed session.
Schiff believes Nunes’s true motive is to spare the president a bad news cycle. And he isn’t afraid to say so.
“I think that there must have been a very strong pushback from the White House about the nature of Monday’s hearing,” Schiff said. “It’s hard for me to come to any other conclusion about why an agreed-upon hearing would be suddenly canceled.”
Tuesday’s hearing was to be a continuation of the hearing from this past Monday which featured FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers. In that hearing, Comey revealed there was an active investigation, which has been ongoing since July, into whether Trump associates collaborated with Russian operatives in their efforts to interfere with the election.
The bizarre behavior of Chairman Nunes may only get more bizarre in coming weeks.
President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has volunteered to interview with the House Intelligence Committee’s probe of Russian interference in last year’s election, committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) announced Friday. Manafort volunteers for interviews with Intelligence committees:
“Mr. Manafort instructed his representatives to reach out to Committee Staff and offer to provide information voluntarily regarding recent allegations about Russian interference in the election,” a spokesman for Manafort said in an email. “As Mr. Manafort has always maintained, he looks forward to meeting with those conducting serious investigations of these issues to discuss the facts.”
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Nunes also said Friday he has asked Comey and National Security Agency (NSA) Director Michael Rogers to brief the House Intelligence Committee in a closed session.
Nunes said the committee was recalling Comey and Rogers because there were questions they could not answer publicly in an appearance before the committee Monday, during which Comey revealed the existence of the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia.
Nunes and committee ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) reached an agreement for Comey to brief the entire committee — not just the two leaders — on details of that probe, Nunes said.
In addition, long-time Trump adviser and GOP ratfucker Roger Stone, Carter Page offer to appear before House intel panel:
Longtime Trump ally Roger Stone announced on Twitter that his attorneys had notified House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) of his intent to appear, noting that he wants the hearing to be public.
“Mr. Stone deeply resents that several members of your Permanent Select Committee have intimated that he has committed treason in his political, press and social media activities,” Stone’s attorney wrote in a letter to Nunes.
“As Mr. Stone has repeatedly stated publicly since these matters have come to light, he is eager to voluntarily appear in open session in front of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence without the necessity of a subpoena,” the letter continued. “Mr. Stone is anxious to redress the false and misleading way he has been portrayed by some on the Permanent Select Committee.”
Stone faces scrutiny for communicating with Guccifer 2.0, the alias of a hacker that the U.S. intelligence community believes to be associated with the Russian government. Stone, a GOP strategist who was an informal adviser to Trump during his campaign, has admitted to the contact but called it “completely innocuous.”
Historical Note: Roger Stone was a member of Richard Nixon’s Committee for the Re-Election of the President, or CREEP, which was directly and actively involved in the Watergate scandal. CREEP used money laundering and a $500,000 slush fund raised to re-elect President Nixon to pay the legal expenses for the five Watergate burglars after their indictment in September 1972, in exchange for their silence and perjury. CREEP was also connected, e.g. via personnel overlap, to the earlier group called the White House Plumbers.
Pro Tip: Roger Stone is a stone-cold liar. Virtually nothing he says can be believed without independent verification from reliable sources. This flamboyant character intends to put on a show, he will not be testifying truthfully.
“I would eagerly welcome the chance to speak with the Committee to help finally set the record straight following the false evidence, illegal activities as well as other lies distributed by certain politically-motivated suspects in coordination with the Obama Administration, which defamed me and other Americans,” Page wrote in the letter to Nunes and committee ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), CNN reported.
Page also told the network that he wanted his appearance to be public. He distanced himself from Trump, telling CNN that his connections with the campaign were limited.
Page confirmed to MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that he met with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, at a diplomacy conference at the Republican National Convention last year. Carter Page, Adviser Once Linked to Trump Campaign, Met With Russian Ambassador.
Page was among several Trump associates named in a New York Times report in January that said law enforcement and intelligence investigators were looking into any possible links between Russian officials and Trump associates.
No word yet on whether Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, briefly Trump’s National Security Advisor until he was asked to resign allegedly for not disclosing his Russian ties, will volunteer to testify before the House Intelligence Committee.
USA Today editorializes Take Devin Nunes off Russian case: House Intelligence Committee chairman undermines confidence in inquiry.
The Washington Post similarly editorializes, Nunes’s grandstanding proves he can’t lead the Russia investigation:
We’ve said before that it was doubtful that an investigation headed by Mr. Nunes into Russia’s interference in the election could be adequate or credible. The chairman’s contradictory and clownish grandstanding makes that a certainty. His committee’s investigation should be halted immediately — and Mr. Nunes deserves to be subject to the same leaking probe he demanded for the previous disclosures.
UPDATE: Martin Longman at the Political Animal blog makes an excellent point about Chairman Nunes Saying Manafort Can Testify Any Way He Wants:
What you don’t do with a prime suspect who has clearly been a subject of an eight-month-long FBI-led counterintelligence investigation is let him call the shots on how he will be confronted. Having him testify could compromise a possible prosecution, so it must be handled very delicately. I suppose this is better than offering him immunity, but it’s the furthest thing from how the House Intelligence Committee should be treating this witness. Manafort should have no say in whether he has to testify in public and he should definitely be subpoenaed. There should be no time limitations, and the staff should treat him, as closely as possible, the same way that the FBI would if they were questioning him.
I don’t know how much longer Nunes will get away with this farce, but it’s getting more than just ridiculous. It’s beginning to look criminal. At a certain point, a deliberately sabotaged investigation is a form of obstruction of justice.
This has to be taken away from him and put in the hands of trained professionals.