Carlson to McCarthy to Nunes: Obstruction or Worse?

[NB: Note the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Before Axios’ scoop was published last evening and Marcy published her post this morning, I’d started a tick-tock of the events related to Tucker Carlson’s recent fauxtrage claiming the NSA was spying on him.

It sure looked like Carlson was doing more than his usual white rage whining.

28-JUN-2021 – Monday evening – Carlson claimed the National Security Agency (NSA) was spying on him.

More specifically, Carlson said,

It’s not just political protesters the government is spying on, yesterday, we heard from a whistleblower within the US government who reached out to warn us that the NSA, the National Security Agency, is monitoring our electronic communications and is planning to leak them in an attempt to take this show off the air.

It’s doubtful Carlson was expressing outrage on behalf of protesters since he doesn’t distinguish between BLM protesters demanding an end to police brutality or MAGA/Qanon rabidly denouncing the outcome of democratic elections.

Who the “we,” “us,” or “our” is to which Carlson referred to is nebulous. The screed was unhinged because there was no evidence provided, just a reference to a shadowy whistleblower who felt compelled to tell Carlson rather than file a complaint through normal channels.

29-JUN-2021 – On Tuesday, Fox News published a partial transcript of Carlson’s program from the previous evening; the network published zero investigative reporting about the alleged spying.

29-JUN-2021 – 8:00 pm ET – The same evening, the NSA tweeted a denial:

As noted in Axios’ and others’ reporting, the NSA pointedly says Carlson “has never been an intelligence target of the Agency” which leaves the possibility Carlson’s communications could have been picked up as incidental to a foreign target if Carlson was communicating with a target.

29-JUN-2021 – 8:46 pm ET – Shortly thereafter, CNN-Business’s Oliver Darcy updated his report including the NSA’s denial while noting that none of Carlson’s Fox News cohort reported on his claim.

30-JUN-2021 – 10:51 am ET – On Wednesday morning, NYU’s Jay Rosen noted Fox’s failure to report such a serious claim.

30-JUN-2021 – 5:07 pm ET – Later that day House minority leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted about Carlson’s allegation:

How convenient – a neat turnaround in less than 48 hours.

~ ~ ~

Note in the partial transcript of Carlson’s Monday fauxtrage this bit toward the end:

Only Congress can force transparency on the intelligence agencies and they should do that immediately. Spying on opposition journalists is incompatible with democracy. If they are doing it to us, and again, they are definitely doing it to us, they are almost certainly doing it to others. This is scary and we need to stop it right away.

Emphasis mine.

Did Carlson actually demand Congress — meaning McCarthy — take action? Or did Carlson provide cover for McCarthy’s selection of Nunes?

If Fox News had investigated Carlson’s claim and found any credibility, one might believe McCarthy had adequate reason to engage Nunes. But without such investigative reporting and no documented formal whistleblower complaint, it’s purely political posturing on Carlson’s part last Monday which drove McCarthy’s action.

McCarthy’s engagement of Nunes itself is odd since McCarthy has resisted for nearly a decade doing anything to restrain the NSA’s surveillance. Why would he sic Nunes on the fruits of his own inaction?

Nunes’ role in the obstruction of the Special Counsel’s investigation suggests the reason why McCarthy would set Nunes loose, along with a slew of other sketchy and obstructive behavior including Nunes’ role in pressuring Ukraine for disinfo about Hunter Biden. With McCarthy’s blessing, Nunes may be continuing the obstruction both of the past investigation and now the Biden administration’s operation.

Marcy’s post earlier today lays out Nunes’ habit of sowing faux scandal; perhaps Nunes didn’t sow this one directly but indirectly through Carlson, laundered by McCarthy until the Axios’ report last evening.

But timing is everything as they say. The Carlson-McCarthy-Nunes sequence occurred roughly 10 weeks after the exit of one of Nunes’ flunkies, Michael Ellis; you’ll recall Ellis is under investigation for leaking classified info, as is fellow Nunes’ flunkie Kash Patel. Patel left his role with the Trump administration on January 20 along with another Nunes’ flunkie, Ezra Cohen-Watnick.

The Carlson-McCarthy-Nunes sequence also happened 12 weeks after yet another Nunes’ flunkie, Derek Harvey, had been sanctioned along with his attorney for filing a defamation lawsuit against CNN which the judge’s ruling said was filed in bad faith.

If we can account for these sources Nunes might have used in the past to obtain intelligence, assuming Nunes might have used Carlson to move McCarthy on his behalf, who was the “whistleblower within the US government who reached out to warn” him about his communications? This is a rather important question since the “whistleblower” leaked to Carlson about communications collection which may have been related to tracking an identified foreign agent; who is the mole?

Perhaps Nunes, a government employee, tipped Carlson himself, closing the feedback loop?

The tricky part about Carlson’s claim after Axios’ report: if Carlson had not made a good faith effort to request an interview with Putin between the period January 1, 2019 until June 28, 2021 as Carlson indicated in his FOIA to the NSA, is it possible that some or all of his content in his program on Fox has been on behalf of a foreign entity?

Has Fox News, by failing to investigate this matter and report on it as a legitimate news network should have, by failing to exercise adequate editorial oversight of its “talent” contacting foreign leaders, also been in the service of a foreign entity?

Has House minority leader McCarthy allowed himself to be manipulated by a foreign entity in responding to Carlson’s claim by engaging Nunes to investigate it, rather than asking the Department of Justice or the Office of the Inspector General to do so? What if any effort did McCarthy expend to validate Carlson’s claim before handing off the situation to Nunes? Did McCarthy make any effort at all to contact Speaker Pelosi and/or Rep. Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee?

~ ~ ~

Marcy wrote, “If the FBI believes that Tucker really was pursuing a long-term relationship with Russian agents, then even Fox News might rethink giving him a platform,” based on the 30-month period of time in which Carlson had been in dialog with Russian agents, allegedly pursuing an interview with Putin.

I don’t think there is or will be any government-based effort to take the Tucker Carlson Tonight show off the air — hello, First Amendment, which Carlson clearly doesn’t understand. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the program or its network was eventually obligated to file paperwork under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

54 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    Recall that RT wasn’t removed from broadcast or other bandwidth in the U.S. back in September 2017 when the DOJ required the outlet to file FARA paperwork. Hmmm.

    ADDER: This doesn’t help matters for Такер Карлсон.

  2. Zirc says:

    “As noted in Axios’ and others’ reporting, the NSA pointedly says Nunes “has never been an intelligence target of the Agency” which leaves the possibility Nunes’ communications could have been picked up as incidental to a foreign target if Nunes was communicating with a target.”

    Do you mean Carlson instead of Nunes here? It looks as though you’re referring to the NSA tweet stating Carlson wasn’t a target.


    • Rayne says:

      Thanks, typo on my part, have Nunes on the brain like a fungus.

      EDIT – 11:21 am ET – Okay, that graf is now fixed. I did a no-no and used global replace without clearing the rest of the sandbox I was in. Oops. Let me know if anything else doesn’t make sense. Thanks!

    • timbo says:

      It’s a good bet that it’s both. They’ve both been communicating with foreign agents clear enough?

    • Rayne says:

      I have had it in my head that his name was pronounced “NOO-nez” with a soft z, but the audio report at FresnoBee pronounced it “noo-neez” and I have been giggling since then. I’d rather it was Noonces pronounced like Toonces; imagine the mugshot.

      • P J Evans says:

        I pronounce it “Noo-nes”, but there were a lot of people with Portuguese ancestry in the area where I grew up, and one of the guys in my HS class was a Nunes.

        • OldTulsaDude says:

          The towns in Portugal that I visited pronounce “s” like an “sh” sound: Obidos is Ob-e-dosh and Cascais is Cash-caish but I don’t know if that extends to surnames.

      • Eureka says:

        Well shoot, I’m partial to “Noonces” but damn if “New Knees” doesn’t make for a *Devine* mob name.

    • Desider says:

      Harkens back to *some* 3 Stooges, but Nunes deserves Shemp to play him, not Curly.
      And then there’s “meeces to pieces”

  3. Silly but True says:

    OOH, it should surprise no one in 2021 that the US would be monitoring attempts to interview Putin, even by US citizens. I’m not sure if it’s good or bad that such an expectation casually exists.

    OTOH, 2021 US would also likely seek to prosecute 1997 Peter Arnett or 1998 John Miller as terrorists for clandestinely communicating with al Qaeda, conspiring with al Qaeda chaperones and facilitators, and interviewing Osama bin Laden.

  4. Max404 says:

    Hello, wasn’t Tooker on the phone with Trumpsky like daily during much of that period?

    If I recall correctly, both ends of that recurring phone call advertised it, one to improve his cred with the base, the other to improve his cred with the base.

  5. Peterr says:

    Tucker: Spying on opposition journalists is incompatible with democracy.

    Qualifying the occupational title “journalist” with the adjective “opposition” is incompatible with the English language, Tucker.

    • FLwolverine says:

      I don’t remember Carlson protesting about the Trump Administration spying on “opposition” journalists.

    • Marinela says:

      Tucker segment is opinion not news. Don’t remember when that distinction occurred, it was under Trump administration.
      In this case, he is probably not a journalist. But other issues are more important than this distinction.

      • Peterr says:

        I agree that his show is opinion, not news. But Tucker calls himself a journalist (see the quoted transcript in the post), and pushing back on *that* is essential.

      • Rayne says:

        Carlson’s content isn’t reported news but when a network’s biggest opinion personality leads off a week with a claim like that, a network with NEWS in its name which tries to validate the rest of its opinion content with a smattering of reported news by journalists actually should do reporting on the claim — especially since the allegation suggests the U.S. government is actively violating a news network’s employee’s First Amendment rights, counter to the current administration’s claim it would cease doing the same to journalists in general.

        But this fuzziness is a critical component to Carlson’s value as a propagandist: the audience which consumes his bullshit most regularly believes him to be part of a news apparatus and therefore a journalist. It’s this fuzziness which makes the handoff to McCarthy and then Nunes appear logical and legitimate.

        • vicks says:

          Is there no legal line that separates a show like “The Colbert Report” or others that ran/run on Comedy Central and whatever Tucker Carlson’s show is called?
          To Rayne’s point, how can a “personality” or “actor” sit behind a news anchor desk, and communicate whatever the hell they want on a 24 hour NEWS station without a disclaimer?

        • Rayne says:

          Carlson’s show is opinion where as The Colbert Report was parodic comedy. Neither genre require truth (truthiness?).

          As for whether the Fox network is trying to get away with spewing falsehoods, as long as they’re on an opinion program they have latitude. Which is the likely reason why Fox News studiously avoided investigative reporting anywhere near Fishstick-Heir Carlson’s claim.

          We also need to keep in mind that cable content isn’t regulated by the FCC like broadcast content is; it’s not required to serve the general interest. I’ve always thought cable should be subject to that same standard since telecom infrastructure is regulated and it benefits directly from the public’s investment going back to its inception.

          That said, if Carlson was using his opinion show to promulgate foreign propaganda or perform tasks to the benefit of hostile foreign entities, he and Fox should have to register under FARA and the show should be forced to carry a chyron labeling the show as FARA product.

  6. BobCon says:

    I’m curious if the McCarthy statement about naming Nunes is designed to trigger a confrontation with Pelosi. Nunes has extremely limited authority as a member of the minority party. He can’t issue any subpoenas without a vote that the majority will almost certainly reject. HPSCI rules strictly limit what he can do with classified information, and he faces serious discipline if he is caught mishandling it. He can always issue press releases and write letters, but without authority granted by the majority, which can always be revoked, there is no obligation of anyone to comply.

    Nunes can, of course, hold mock hearings or any other stagecraft he wants, and it’s possible that McCarthy wants the usual suspects in the press acting like it’s an open question whether he can do this. He may want to try to embarass Pelosi by forcing her to discipline Nunes, and any other stooges who accompany him. Or he may be hoping that Pelosi gets bogged down in procedural efforts to address protocol violations by Nunes instead of going for a swift vote by the full House.

    McCarthy got a six month delay of a 1/6 investigation by getting Congress tied up in debate over a bipartisan effort, and he may well be playing for time on a broader front with whatever complications Nunes can throw up.

    • Marinela says:

      Heard that McCarthy is going to name Jim Jordan and others to the January 6 committee, which will guarantee a circus/shit show.
      What I don’t get why Pelosi would accept these GOP people in the first place, first of all, they didn’t vote for the committee. It is obvious on what is going to happen next.

      Is she worried that when democrats are in minority, they would not be allowed to sit in a committee?

      Democrats need to raise up to the moment, enough with the timid steps.

    • subtropolis says:

      I saw it as just theatre, nothing more. McCarthy does not expect anything to come of Nunes’s big investigation. It was just something said to create the appearance that there really is something nefarious afoot.

      • DM says:

        Arrington’s access to NSA data was withdrawn and she was suspended for an alleged non-authorized disclosure of classified information.

        It’s possible she is the source of the information re Carlson being unmasked or otherwise identified in NSA data. Trump endorsed her to primary Mark Sanford. She won the primary but lost the general. Because she was #MAGA, Trump appointed her to the pentagon as a cybersecurity something or rather. Definitely not an institutionalist.

        Like Trump et al, perhaps Carlson and his agents were communicating with Russian spooks about “an interview with Putin,” those communications were identified by the NSA, and Carlson was unmasked. As before, Nunes comes in to spin a yarn about the NSA “spying” on conservatives who were, in actuality, communicating with foreign intelligence agents.

        Food for thought…

        • subtropolis says:

          “Definitely not an institutionalist.”

          She did previously work at Booz Allen Hamilton, the NSA/CIA contractor, so her appointment wasn’t all that out of place.

          In any case, I’d made the same connection between her and Carlson, immediately after reading about her losing her clearance.

        • bmaz says:

          This is completely bullshit speculation. That is not a good thing. You are doing so off of bullshit Carlson garbage, and assuming it might be right. That is a very bad take.

        • subtropolis says:

          This post (and those of Marcy’s) is all about “bullshit Carlson garbage”! WTF?

          And my Arrington speculation is NOT based upon Carlson’s lies, in any case.

        • Sonso says:

          Speculation is why investigations are prompted; the question is whether the speculation is in good faith or performative propaganda. It is not always easy to differentiate.

    • Rayne says:

      This bit: “Any specific allegations against Arrington have not been disclosed, and she remains on paid leave, according to Zaid.”

      Poor baby, at home during the summer collecting a check. Wah.

      But it’s funny her lawyer Zaid doesn’t call her a “whistleblower” in that article. Bet it’s because Zaid actually knows what hallmarks distinguish an actual “whistleblower” based on his experience (thread):

      Key: “were protected by law as whistleblowers who raised through appropriate channels a number of serious concerns”

      • subtropolis says:

        Yes, whoever was Carlson’s source, it would definitely be wrong to call them a “whistleblower”.

        – – –
        On Tuesday, Zaid said the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency — which conducts background investigations for the federal workforce — “has no active investigation or adjudication actions” regarding Arrington. He accused security officials of “withholding information,” now that six weeks have passed since her suspension.
        – – –

        If I’m correct — that Arrington was Carlson’s source — I don’t think that DCSA would necessarily be involved. More likely, i think, both the FBI and NSA. And NSA would be “withholding information” because there’s an active investigation. As I understand these things, one’s security clearance may be suspended without providing one with the kind of information that Mark Zaid is complaining is being withheld. (And, I’d think that he knows that.)

        • Rayne says:

          You forgot the Office of Inspector General.

          We’re going to agree to disagree about Arrington. My point was and is that Carlson’s claim about a “whistleblower” inside the government is suspect, in no small part because his claimed “whistleblower” has not obviously followed the established route necessary to ensure legal protections, and everything Carlson says is suspect and compromised by his questionable relationships with foreign agents.

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