The Congressman Investigating Collusion Colluded?
Yesterday, The New York Times reported “2 White House Officials Helped Give (Devin) Nunes Intelligence Reports.” This bombshell report, if corroborated, all but confirms collusion between Nunes and the White House. The report states, “A pair of White House officials helped provide Representative Devin Nunes, a Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, with the intelligence reports that showed that President Trump and his associates were incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies.” Ezra Cohen-Watnick, Senior Director for Intelligence at the National Security Council discovered material and Michale Ellis, an attorney in the White House Counsel’s Office “allowed Mr. Nunes to view the material.”
Mainstream Journalists, Democrats on the Hill, the TwitterSphere and just about anyone else paying a modicum of attention to Nunes’ unprecedented, two week devolution of credibility have speculated collusion. And this revelation, only bolsters that speculation. All signs point to this being a coordinated attempt by the White House to vindicate Trump’s wiretapping lies.
Two days ago Chairman Nunes accused Democrats of investigatory obstruction. He said, “We’re beginning to figure out who’s actually serious about the investigation because it appears like the Democrats aren’t really serious about this investigation.”
Nunes, a sixteen year veteran of the House of Representatives is too smart and too seasoned to come up with something this ridiculous. Democrats are the only reason there is an investigation by the House Intelligence Committee. Republicans are literally there to control the proceedings, obstruct the process and protect the President.
Blame shifting is a political art form and Nunes is certainly an adept practitioner. Amateur blame shifting, the eight year old “he put the gum under my desk” version, is a Trump Administration, go to strategy. Although unprovable, its more than likely Nunes was taking his marching orders from the Executive Branch.
This blame it on the Democrats narrative was a single tactic employed in a month long segment of a two month, norm-free investigative process. Just forty eight hours ago, the tactical approach was cancel, cancel, cancel. Nunes cancelled a private hearing with FBI Director James Comey and cancelled all House Intelligence Committee meetings. A few days prior he cancelled a public hearing with former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former Director of National Intelligence Director James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan.
Multiple media outlets reported the Trump Administration attempted to silence Yates, as she would likely provide testimony conflicting the Trump Administration’s account of Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn. She was expected to talk about Flynn’s conversations with the Russian Ambassador and events leading to his firing. Nunes cancelled the hearing the same day Yates’ attorney notified the White House she would discuss her concerns about Michael Flynn. Coincidence?
Cancelling the Yates hearing also provided political cover for the President. If Yates really had damming information and Trump’s unmuzzled lawyers couldn’t scare her out of testifying, the President would have to invoke executive privilege. “Executive privilege is an umbrella concept by which a president may seek to shield executive branch confidences from disclosure, even in the face of judicial or congressional subpoenas.”
POTUS could simply say Yates’ testimony is Presidential communication and therefore consent is required. In this case, a Presidential denial of consent would be a legally inconsequential admission of guilt. Nunes cancellation sweeps that pesky little dilemma under the rug.
Lastly, the cancellation afforded Press Secretary Sean Spicer an opportunity to declare, with virtuous indignation, “We want her to testify! I hope she testifies.” If he wants her to testify and he speaks for the President, then the President wants her to testify. They can “want her to testify” without fear of incrimination if there’s no venue for her to do it.
Just this past evening, The Wall Street Journal reported Trump’s Micheal Flynn “has a story to tell” and is willing to testify in exchange for prosecutorial immunity. Sally Yates’ formerly repressed, currently welcome, and coincidentally cancelled testimony may not be so important anymore. That one seems to have backfired pretty quickly.
Project Cancel Everything was proceeded by six days of domestic, not quite CIA worthy cloak and dagger: Nunes’ had a (sort of) secret, late night meeting on the White House grounds. An unnamed source (prior to the NY Times story) provided evidence of legal surveillance, illegal unmasking and distribution of White House Transition Team member identities. The next day Nunes quietly visited Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. He then called an impromptu, inflammatory, semi-inarticulate press conference. Then, a mad dash to the White House to brief the President (who Nunes is supposed to be investigating), immediately followed up with another impromptu, even less articulate press conference. The follow day conflicting reports surfaced about Nunes’ tepid apology to uniformed House Intelligence Committee members.
The cloak and dagger nonsense conveniently complimented the White House’s narrative du jour. Yesterday, a more relaxed Sean Spicer said unnamed Administration officials had, indeed discovered materials connected to surveillance of the election. It’s a coincidental miracle!!!!
This newly unearthed treasure trove of Tweet vindicating information, discovered in the course of regular business, may or may not include the same documentation Nunes supposedly reviewed during his not so secret, secret White House rendezvous.
The White House, always transparent and forthcoming, sent a letter to Senate and House Intelligence Committee leadership (including Nunes), inviting them to review these classified materials. Congressman Adam Schiff, Senator Mark Warner and Senator Richard Burr can expect full disclosure. Most importantly, Congressman Nunes will be able to review documentation given to him by the President that he later shared with President. Third time’s the charm.
It’s impossible (at this time) to determine why Trump administration officials and Devin Nunez created a smokeless smoke screen. The blatant obstruction and obvious cover up couldn’t be more transparent. Are their efforts more inept then nefarious? Are they Washington DC’s Keystone Cops, flying by the seats of their pants, pouring gasoline on each administrative effort they inadvertently set aflame? Are they actually smarter then reality would suggest and is this a well thought out, master plan to quash every investigation into Russian collusion?
If the why is still a temporarily unsolvable mystery, the how isn’t so elusive. How does Devin Nunes fit into the mix? Why him?
Nunes is actually an entrenched Trump Administrative player. He’s as much inner circle as is Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus or any of the the other second tier lackeys vying for Donald Trump’s political affection and limited attention.
Nunes first came to know candidate Trump at a successful fundraiser in Fresno, CA in May 2016. The two continued to fundraise together throughout the state, jet-setting about Cali on “Air Trump GTS (golden toilet seats)” (my name for his private jet). Trump also met with rural farmers in Nunes’ 22nd district. The farmers have been struggling with water accessibility issues for years. Nunes believes the water crisis “is caused by laws and environmental regulations that restrict pumping and mandate huge water flows be flushed into the ocean.” Trump promised to fix the water problem.
Nunes was added to PEOTUS’ Executive Transition Team the day after the election. The exclusive, sixteen member cabal included Trump’s children and son-in-law, close friends and billionaire Peter Thiel. Trump said (in a press release), “The mission of our team will be clear: put together the most highly qualified group of successful leaders who will be able to implement our change agenda in Washington.” The group would also help POETUS craft public policy for the first twelve months in office.
Nunes would primarily focus on defense, intelligence and tax policy. He spoke to the President-elect often via private phone conversation and even scampered up to Trump Tower on December 16, 2016 to work on tax policy. He wasn’t the scandal driven starlight/media darling we know today. To avoid the press, he accessed the Tower through an undisclosed entrance. He likely could have had a position in the Trump Administration, but, unlike Rudy Giuliani, he didn’t want one. He preferred to remain in Congress. He was a trusted advisor, a beltway confidant and a loyal friend.
Fast forward to January 5, 2017. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes and ranking Democratic member Rep. Adam Schiff announced the investigation into Russia’s interference in the election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. These past twelve weeks have proven Nunes not just an ally in congress, but a nose to the ground, loyal Trumpian solider more then willing to fall on the ideological sword for King MAGA.
Then again, maybe not. The rubber is very likely about to hit road for the bevy of investigators, the Trump inner circle and the President himself. If Mike Flynn is really ready to sing the “I know who did it” song and someone grants him a get out of jail (not so) free card, the weakest links in the Trump loyalty chain are going to snap.
Nunes may be the next Trump-card to fold. Post Flynn (and after the Manafort-Page-Stone trio), he’s currently the most exposed Trumpster. He’s under tremendous pressure to recuse himself from the House investigation. His obvious cover up is not just translucent, but clear-eyed transparent. Everyone knows “it’s a sham,” but everyone thinks (thought) “it’s a consequence-free sham.” An eight time victor who consistently wins elections by huge margins, he’s perfectly safe at home. In the Nation’s Capital, he really can’t get into trouble if he didn’t do anything blatantly illegal.
But, what if he did? Nunes could be facing an ethics probe for an “unauthorized disclosure of intelligence.” And there may be more to the story. I’m just spitball speculating, but, his poker face is unimpressive and best suited for a game of Go Fish or negotiating Boardwalk and Park Place in Monopoly. He couldn’t be a more uncomfortable liar. If Flynn really breaks and, for one reason or another, investigators discover a reason to question this investigator, he may find himself on the weaker side of the dais.