Devin Nunes Doesn’t Think Donald Trump Should be Subject To the Kind of “Witch Hunt” He Conducted with Edward Snowden

We know what a Devin Nunes-led investigation into possible Russian compromise looks like. Just in December, after all, the House Intelligence Committee released their investigation into Edward Snowden.

Using the Snowden investigation as a guide, we know that HPSCI believes that if there’s an ongoing investigation, it should avoid speaking to anyone who knows evidence first-hand. It can instead rely on the impressions of people who don’t like the target of the investigation, as HPSCI did for claims that Snowden went to a hackers conference in China. It can also avoid reviewing official records, including public school records or even official Army records. Rather than do that, it may rely on imprecise citations of public reporting, interpreted in the light designed to be most damning. Any lies told — such as Snowden’s cover story that he’d be undergoing epilepsy treatment or Mike Flynn’s lies to Mike Pence — are themselves evidence of the worst possible guilt. Numbers are interpreted in the most damning possible light, even if more recent and informed numbers suggest something far less damning; those damning numbers came, in Snowden’s case, from a decision made by former DIA Director and recently fired National Security Advisor Flynn to assume any contact involved potential compromise.

Very importantly, HPSCI’s standard is that if anyone alleges contact between Russians and the target of an investigation, they should believed, even if that person is not in a position to know first hand. According to HPSCI standard, it is permissible to rely on dubious translations of Russian comments.

That’s the standard a Devin Nunes-led investigation holds to — or at last held to, with Snowden — before it deems an American citizen a traitor (irrespective of the very specific requirements of a treason charge).

Now, you can certainly argue that that’s a horrible standard for an intelligence committee investigation into allegations that an American citizen is spying for Russia. I have made that argument myself. But that is the standard HPSCI very recently set for serious allegations of possible intelligence compromises involving Russia.

Which is mighty curious, because Devin Nunes just gave a press conference claiming, categorically, that no Trump campaign personnel had any contact with any Russian official. That, in spite of public reporting relying on an interview with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that said his contacts with Trump campaign advisor Mike Flynn went back before November 8. That’s pretty good evidence that Trump’s campaign was in contact with a Russian official. (Later in his presser, Nunes acknowledged that Flynn spoke with Russia, though suggested that happened after Trump became President-Elect.)

And if Nunes applied the same standard to Trump’s associates he applied to Edward Snowden, then clearly the allegations in the Trump dossier should be presumed to be true (again, I’m not advocating for this, I’m talking about what would happen if HPSCI applied the same standard). That would mean Carter Page’s contacts with Kremlin Internal Affairs official Diyevkin would count as evidence of a contact. Carter Page’s other contacts were not named. Michael Cohen’s, which were alleged to be even more inflammatory, were done with Russian Presidential Administration figures working under cover, but would seem to meet the Nunes HPSCI standard. Paul Manafort’s contacts were with Ukrainians.

Finally, if HPSCI applied the same standards they did with Snowden, then the claims from Sergei Ryabkov that there were discussions before the election should amount to sufficient evidence to substantiate the claim.

Devin Nunes invoked McCarthyism in insisting his committee shouldn’t just investigate American citizens without evidence. But he apparently extends that standard differently to men on whose transition team he served.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

10 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Thank you.

    Authoritarians and their followers think up more reasons to allow themselves asymmetric special treatment than a smoker trying to quit.  An apples-to-apples comparison will have no effect on them.  But it will affect those not addicted to alternative facts.

  2. qpl23 says:

    Para 3: “if anyone alleges contact between Russians and the target of an investigation, they should believed” – shoud be: “they should be believed,” right?

  3. martin says:

    “… Devin Nunes just gave a press conference claiming, categorically, that no Trump campaign personnel had any contact with any Russian official, *because the President told him so and the President shall not be challenged*.”

    Besides, *evidence* is so last year.

    • greengiant says:

      Other shallow state blithers:    Stephen Miller,   “When I lie,  you cannot deny”    “When I lie,  I will not be questioned”   Trump …
      “must be honored”  “It is a fact, and you will not deny it,”   Kascich,  “like being on an airplane; you want to root for the pilot.”   Note,  not if it is flight 93.

      people who oppose Trump “are responsible for our open borders, for our shrinking middle class, for our terrible trade deals … Everything that is wrong with this country today, the people who are opposed to Donald Trump are responsible for!”

      Trump just told Nunes,  all Trump contacts with Russia were either after the election,  non campaign personnel or with Russians who were not officially officers of the state.  Flynn,  Carter Page type “advisors”,  Roger Stone and personal lawyers don’t count.   #FAKESPEECH

  4. bevin says:

    Talking of evidence, this is from a piece sat New Eastern Outlook:

    “As it’s been noted by The Nation:

    The bipartisan, nearly full-political-spectrum tsunami of factually unverified allegations that President Trump has been sedi-
tiously “compromised” by the Kremlin, with scarcely any nonpartisan pushback from influential political or media sources, is deeply alarming. Begun by the Clinton campaign in mid-2016, and exemplified now by New York Times columnists (who write of a “Trump-Putin regime” in Washington), strident MSNBC hosts, and unbalanced CNN commentators, the practice is growing into a latter-day McCarthyite hysteria.”
    http://journal-neo.org/2017/02/28/even-today-washington-remains-the-same-unapologetic/

  5. bevin says:

    At what point, after it becomes apparent that the US will continue the current aggressive behaviour towards Russia (as predicted here: http://www.atimes.com/moscows-wriggle-room-shrinking-vis-vis-trump/) , at what point will the story of Trump being a Putin puppet and of Russia having ensured that Clinton be defeated be dropped?
    Or, since it arose without evidence, will it simply endure despite its obviously bearing no relationship to reality?

    • RUKidding says:

      For me, anymore, it’s seems very similar to the Obama Birth Certificate hysteria, which led to many, many court cases (wasting US taxpayer dollars on patented bullsh*t).  Some citizens will go to their graves swearing that Obama was a secret Kenyan Muslim, who was illegitimate to be President.

      I fully expect that a similar contingency of citizens will believe to the bottom of their feckless gormless hearts that Trump is a total puppet of Putin & the Kremlin, the lack of evidence be damned.

      Propaganda in the Yew Ess Aay is very effective.

      The usual question is:  Cui bono?

  6. martin says:

    Reply function bizarro notwithstanding”’
    Martin…that would be me.. said

    (no block quote notwithstanding)
    quote
    “… Devin Nunes just gave a press conference claiming, categorically, that no Trump campaign personnel had any contact with any Russian official, *because the President told him so and the President shall not be challenged*.” unquote

    If campaign advisor counts as “campaign personnel”…
    Along with AG Sessions resignation…I expect Nune’s as well, notwithstanding laughed into hiding across the Twitterverse/Zuckbook. Meanwhile, rumor has it GOP heads exploding exponentially throughout the Congress.. Trump preparing twitter rampage of lies, lies, and more lies, and broadsides @ IC
    http://www.ocregister.com/articles/sessions-745447-trump-smoke.html

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