Reminder: The Guy Killing the HPSCI Investigation Was Part of Trump’s Troubled Transition Team

Over the weekend, the WaPo had an article on all the things Devin Nunes is doing to kill the House Intelligence Committee investigation into Trump’s cooperation with Russia during the election. It started like this:

Rep. Devin Nunes, once sidelined by an ethics inquiry from leading the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe, is reasserting the full authority of his position as chairman just as the GOP appears poised to challenge special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

The California Republican was cleared in December of allegations he improperly disclosed classified information while accusing the Obama administration of exposing the identities of Trump affiliates on surveillance reports. Since clearing his name, Nunes has stepped up his attacks on Mueller’s team and the law enforcement agencies around it, including convening a group of Intelligence Committee Republicans to draft a likely report on “corruption” among the investigators working for the special counsel.

And ended like this:

Nunes, meanwhile, appears to have made up his mind about the House Intelligence Committee probe into the allegations surrounding Trump and Russia, expressing his convictions in an interview with Fox News.

“We have no evidence of Russia collusion between the Trump campaign” and Russia, Nunes said.

I’ll save you the click and answer the question you should be asking: did this 1400 word article on Nunes’ attempts to kill his committee’s investigation make any mention of the fact that Nunes served on Trump’s Transition Team?

The answer, as it so routinely has been when people treat Nunes’ opinion about whether there was “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia as a credible opinion, is no. No, the WaPo didn’t think it relevant to mention that Nunes was a key figure in the transition process that has since become a close focus of the Mueller investigation. Indeed, Nunes was involved in both efforts to shield members of Congress and Transition officials when they do Bibi Netanyahu’s bidding. And if he didn’t use his Congressional email address during the transition (in which case Mueller would probably give it great deference), he might well be among the 13 officials whose emails Mueller’s team obtained from GSA, which has been the latest panic that Nunes has fed.

In short, Nunes was in the thick of things, and he should no more be treated as a credible judge of whether there was collusion going on in the casino than Mike Flynn Jr or Don Jr or Trump himself. While I don’t imagine Nunes is in any legal difficulty, he was nevertheless part of efforts to hijack US policy before Trump became President and some of his obstruction since then has served to distract attention that the Transition Team did so.

And it’s not just WaPo’s news page that seems to have ignored this detail. So has Greg Sargent, in a piece assessing the likelihood HPSCI Democrats would do their own report laying out all the ways Nunes obstructed a legitimate inquiry. You’d think you’d point those two points together: that Nunes obstructed the inquiry because he’s tangentially a subject of it.

This should be a really basic thing: Nunes may have been cleared of leaking. But he is still making key decisions on an investigation into actions targeting an organization he participated in. Naming HPSCI Chair Nunes to his Transition Team might be the most competent aspect of Trump’s cover-up, by far.

That’s the story here.

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.

13 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    You’d think you’d point those two points together: that Nunes obstructed the inquiry because he’s tangentially a subject of it.

    Indeed.  Being cleared by friendly peers is not the same as being cleared.  Nor does it alleviate the obvious conflicts of interest you allude to.  As you say, he isn’t disinterested: he’s blindingly implicated, with access to data he must be delivering up to Trump as and when needed.

    And yet the WaPo essentially gives him a free pass.  Standard operating procedure for press coverage of the Trump retinue.  Thank goodness for Emptywheel and her not drinking the Beltway cool-aid.

    • Avattoir says:

      Maybe I’m too thick, but ‘name cleared’ of what? As I understand…

      1. Nunes holds a presser – a Joe McCarthy special: highly manipulated & contrived to give off the general impression of being impromptu & to leave behind messages of fear, panic, gravity, the speaker’s central importance & vitality, in that the speaker – whose office, again, has set this thing up this way – is at the exact epicenter of a desperate nation’s panicked media crush seeking to obtain from He Who Knows All some sign of … ? (hope? doom?)

      2. At his presser, with its contrived impression of a media crush, Nunes ladles out, to the very same media in attendance that are critical to the manipulation, a marbles-banging mash-up of substantially incoherent loosely connected (if at all) paranoia-filled speculations, framed to give off the message that, for national security reasons (He’s THAT important.), he’s carefully deliberately salted his otherwise inexplicable incomprehensible mess, with Easter egg, that, IF interpreted correctly (and only Fox had invested in the necessary decoder.), put Nunes & Trump sweaty hind-cheek to sweaty hind-cheek in standing athwart WDC to save America from radical Obamanation.

      3. Tho strictly speaking, what comes out of his mouth are a bunch of names strewn about like confetti at a festival of drunks – which any reporters present who might wish to can identify with whatever part of the more or less concurrently spewn paranoia-filled images they choose.

      4. Presumably it’s actually the COMPLAINT, framed, as it must be, with some degree of coherency, that makes the last big contribution to this pretentious inverse name-cleared meme, because by no more than it’s very coherency, it set up a standard which the presser performance was pre-designed to dissolve before.

      That is, the complaint process was fated from the start to issue a null finding. The fact that otherwise generally conscientious reporters & columnists at WaPo now ‘neglect’ to raise this reality, and even more so the simpler far more clear and direct fact that Nunes was on the transition team, means the capture process is working fine.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        From Demirjian’s 31 Dec 17 article in the WaPo:

        The California Republican was cleared in December of allegations he improperly disclosed classified information while accusing the Obama administration of exposing the identities of Trump affiliates on surveillance reports.

        The House Committee on Ethics [sic], evenly split between Dems and the GOP, “cleared” Nunes.

      • Silence Hand says:

        Word up.

        The whole Nunes “clearance” process a) was bullshit and b) seems like a bellwether of the impending Republican shit show on the house side, particularly given his direct participation in the Trump transition (which none of the politicians involved have forgotten).  I say “seems” because I’ve been unable to grind through the obviously depressing details of the process.  Suffice to say, the Trump-submissive contingent on the R side is larger than estimated and closes ranks in the end.

        Now that Nunes is back in force, it’s abundantly clear that his job was to use the HPSCI to run interference. He’s very much Trump’s guy in all of this (because, of course).  That seems kind of downbeat, but I’m actually modestly encouraged that  Nunes was taken out of the picture for quite some time, and that the HPSCI process went as far as it did.  Since when did anyone expect it to break real ground?  If anything, it has over-performed.  Of course, the R side is shifting back to the original “Nothing To See Here People Commission” mandate, but haven’t the D side actually found some real footing?  At the least, they’re convincingly arguing that the process is a sham.

         

         

  2. dalloway says:

    Given Nunes'”spy vs. spy” antics, far more pro-active than merely stalling an investigation, could Mueller eventually name Nunes as a co-conspirator (indicted or not) in the cover-up/obstruction of justice? And if Democrats have gained control of the House by then, if he’s un-indicted, can they expel him? I guess it’s more likely Nunes will suddenly feel a burning need to spend more time with his family.

    • Desider says:

      I’m not a lawyer, but I’d guess that leaking grand jury or committee testimony to the person(s) being investigated might be considered some kind of violation.

      • bmaz says:

        It is a Rule 6(e) violation  for grand jurors, prosecutors, etc to leak GJ information. But witnesses and their lawyers  are free to talk about their testimony and questioning. Tunes should not have any direct GJ information, and I doubt he does. The committees do have their own information from their investigations though.

  3. SpaceLifeForm says:

    IC Portfolios. Not buying.

    Nothing will prevent a new ‘program’ from being created that never becomes part of a portfolio.

    https://fas.org/blogs/secrecy/2018/01/ic-portfolios/

    Director of National Intelligence Daniel R. Coats, who has kept a comparatively low public profile lately, surfaced last month to issue new guidance that is intended in part as a way to curb internal IC secrecy.

    The guidance discusses the creation and management of intelligence “portfolios.” This term refers to a collection of classified programs that overlap in some way and that are bundled together to facilitate information sharing and collaboration.

    [They all overlap]

    “Establishment of a Portfolio may be required in order to achieve unity of effort and effect against the highest priority requirements or when compartmentalization hinders or prevents access to information necessary for intelligence integration,” according to the new guidance. The practice has no bearing on public disclosure of intelligence information.

    [The intent is good, but bad guys in IC will continue to hide. Spy vs Spy]

  4. SpaceLifeForm says:

    A great tweet that all inside beltway need to absorb. And those outside the beltway too.

    https://mobile.twitter.com/MalwareJake/status/937370245215539201

    ‘Want to be great at infosec (and life)? Get out of your echo chamber. Take time every day to educate yourself on arguments that challenge your worldview (personally and professionally). Understanding how those who disagree with you think is absolutely invaluable.”

    • cat herder says:

      Maybe I’m just too thick to make the connection but it seems like you’ve just dropped your daily collection of random factoids in the comments again.

      • SpaceLifeForm says:

        Others on HPSCI need to think outside the box. They need not let Nunes lead them astray.
        Nunes needs to listen to them.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    For a guy who golfs while claiming to be at work, I suppose we should be happy that something about Trump actually “works”.  He is, after all, a public employee.

    But I find that the attribute most bragged about is usually the one that falls flat when needed.  Here’s hoping that’s true of Trump’s button.

  6. Peterr says:

    I’d like to think that this is why Rosenstein and Wray had a little sit-down with Paul Ryan today, that went something like this . . .

    Rosenstein: Mr. Speaker, let’s have a little chat about Mr. Nunez and his work in partnership with the Trump campaign.

    Ryan: What? He was neutral during the primaries, and stayed out of it.

    Wray: Really? Are you sure about that? Are you absolutely sure?

    Ryan (sensing the ground turning to sand under his feet): Um . . . That’s what I recall. He was head of the Intel committee, and try to remain “above the fray”.

    Rosenstein: Perhaps I can refresh your memory, with this quote from a piece in The Hill:

    First, Nunes briefed and advised the Trump campaign on intelligence early in the campaign. Trump and Ryan coordinated the development of the GOP’s broad national security plan, released last June, with the Trump campaign. Although it is not clear how many times Nunes met with and briefed Trump or his campaign aides, it is possible that this occurred during the period when Trump aides were in contact with Russian intelligence and diplomats.

    Wray: You see, Mr. Speaker, it’s that last line that concerns me.

    Rosenstein: It concerns me as well.

    Wray: And while I haven’t specifically talked with him about it, I feel confident in saying that it concerns Mr. Mueller.

    Ryan: Um . . .

    Rosenstein: Yes, it seems to me that this would be squarely in the parameters of Mr. Mueller’s investigation — which might also put you in that same position, Mr. Speaker.

    Ryan: Are you threatening me?

    Wray (laughing): Of course not.

    Rosenstein: Us? Never. But you know, that piece in The Hill didn’t end there. It went on, like this . . .

    Second, as mentioned in some media reports on Nunes’s actions last week, he was on Trump’s transition team. We often think of these transition efforts as large efforts including hundreds of people. Not only was Trump’s effort much smaller, Nunes served on the transition’s executive committee. This committee included Vice President-elect Mike Pence as chairman, three of Trump’s children and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Most of the other 12 members were Trump surrogates (remember Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich?) and aides. One of those aides was Michael Flynn, who has since resigned as national security adviser due to lying about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

    Third, Nunes was quoted in The Washington Post saying that at some point during the transition, he was fielding calls from foreign leaders and ambassadors trying to reach NSA designee Flynn. As a result, it is very possible that Nunes’s conversations were also “incidentally” recorded by U.S. intelligence agencies as part of other investigations.

    Ryan: Um . . .

    Wray: So let’s review. Mr. Nunez was involved with the Trump campaign on intelligence matters at the same time as important meetings with various Russians. And so were you. After the election, Mr. Nunez was not fetching coffee for the Trump team, but right at the heart of things at the same time that General Flynn was tweeting from the bleachers on Inauguration Day.

    Rosenstein: Mr. Speaker, let me repeat: we are not threatening you. We are merely pointing out to you as the Speaker of the House and the head of the House Republicans that the Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence ought to exhibit some of his own intelligence and quit acting like a damn fool.

    Wray: Because if he persists in demanding our presence in a public session of his committee, we will be more than happy to appear and make his foolishness apparent to the world.

    Ryan: Um . . .

    Rosenstein: You know, I’d love to ask you more about what kind of interactions you and Mr. Nunez had with the campaign last summer, but I think it best to leave the asking of those questions to Mr. Mueller.

    Wray: Well, we know you’re busy, with all those cans that were kicked from December into January to deal with, so we’ll take our leave. Nice to chat with you, Mr. Speaker.

    Rosenstein: And make sure to give Mr. Nunez our best.

    Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

    (Several internal links in The Hill omitted here)

Comments are closed.