Investigators don’t normally brief the people they’re investigating. But on Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the Republican who’s leading a congressional investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s team colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, went to the White House to talk to the president.
U.S. intelligence agencies had intercepted Trump associates’ communications ― and perhaps those of Trump himself ― in the final three months of the Obama administration, Nunes said he told Trump.
Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a close Trump ally, said the intercepted communications didn’t mention Russia and were therefore unrelated to his investigation. But the subject matter ― the intelligence community’s investigation of Trump and his associates’ connections to foreign powers ― overlapped. And Nunes’ objective appeared political: Deflect attention from Trump and his associates’ ties to Russia, and back up Trump’s claim that he is a victim of “deep state” loyal to former President Barack Obama.
Nunes’ gambit failed. In attempting to put out the Trump-Russia fire, he made much of it worse: In two press conferences on Wednesday, he confirmed that Trump’s surrogates ― and maybe the president himself ― were subjects of legal surveillance, implied that they may have had suspicious contact with agents from a country other than Russia, and potentially disclosed classified information.
And by choosing to brief the president, who’s so closely tied to the investigation, before sharing his new information with his Democratic counterpart, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Nunes also raised doubts about his own ability to lead his committee’s probe.
Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that Nunes “will need to decide if he is the chairman of an independent investigation or if he’s a surrogate for the White House.”
“If a Democrat had done this, Republicans would have been asking for him to be investigated both for disclosing classified information and for obstructing justice,” said Matthew Miller, a Department of Justice spokesman during the Obama administration. “It is so far beyond the pale for the person who is conducting an investigation to both brief the subject of that investigation and potentially jeopardize an ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by the FBI.”That would be one of our bumbling villains, Rep. Devin Nunes, formerly a dairy farmer and more recently a member of neo- fascist un-indicted co-conspirator (maybe!) Donald "Rump" Trump's transition team, making a strong case today for (at the very least) his removal from the chair of the House Intelligence Committee and the appointment of a Special Counsel to continue the investigation of the Russia- Trump connection. Whatever doubt of this remained after Nunes and his fellow enabling Republicans on the committee lobbed defensive or distracting questions at FBI Director James Comey at Monday's hearing should now be now entirely dispelled. He is Rump's man on the committee (among many others) and cannot be trusted in any way, shape or form.
Some selected reactions:
For those still not getting it: Nunes and now White House are manipulating language to make it seem like Trump wiretapping true. It isn't.— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) March 22, 2017
Nunes, who wants leakers hunted down and thrown in prison, talked about a lot of classified information today https://t.co/Ih6OYAt3YT— Matthew Rosenberg (@AllMattNYT) March 22, 2017
NUNES: Hey, don't look at Paul Manafort working to undermine democracy on behalf of Putin! Look over here! Yoo-hoo!— Jake Vig (@Jake_Vig) March 22, 2017
7. It shows how much pressure Team Trump is feeling, including #DevinNunes himself, who was on the Trump transition team. SCREWS TIGHTEN.— Peter Daou (@peterdaou) March 22, 2017
Hot Take: Devin Nunes may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer— Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) March 22, 2017
Perhaps feeling liberated by Nunes' actions, Intelligence Committee Ranking Minority Member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) upped the ante on the villain:
Schiff on collusion btw Trump associates and Russians: "I can't go into the particulars, but there is more than circumstantial evidence now" pic.twitter.com/JvPv74ROiM— David Mack (@davidmackau) March 22, 2017
Lock him up! Lock him up!
BONUS: Steve Benen has a good read about Nunes' bizarre actions.