US Rep. Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, went to extraordinary measures Wednesday to try to give President Trump some modicum of cover over the president’s wild, debunked, baseless-in-fact claim that he was surveilled under the direction of President Obama. In the process, Nunes torpedoed any chance of the House Intelligence Committee having an independent, bipartisan investigation of the situation.
Meanwhile, CNN is quoting US officials as saying the FBI has information that Trump campaign officials may very well have colluded with Russian agents to time the release of information damaging to candidate Hillary Clinton.
It was another day of extraordinary developments in a story that could in fact trigger a constitutional crisis. Nunes held a news conference early in the day saying he had information that Trump associates or Trump himself may have been caught up in surveillance of foreign agents, namely, Russia.
Nunes never told the Democratic ranking member of his committee about this new claim. Nunes did tell Republican members of the committee, many of whom urged him to tell ranking member US Rep. Adam Schiff first. Instead, he immediately rushed to the White House to tell administration officials.
One doesn’t have to be Woodward or Bernstein to realize that Nunes, who worked on Trump’s transition team, is more interested in throwing some miniscule fig leaf over Trump’s surveillance allegations than he is in conducting a clean, impartial and effective investigation by the Intelligence Committee he chairs.
Let’s quickly review: FBI Director James Comey, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate leaders John McCain and Lindsay Graham, Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and others who were briefed by the intelligence community have all said there is no evidence or information to back Trump’s wild-eyed claims.
Meanwhile, all the president’s men being incidentally caught up (they were not the targets) in conversations with Russians may give Trump a day or two or saying, “Yeah, that’s what I meant!” but in the bigger picture, it’s bad news for Trump—it means some of his people, or him, were talking with foreign agents being surveilled.
The new CNN report cites intelligence officials as saying not only did Trumpers get caught up in surveillance of foreign agents but that they very well may have been coordinating the timing of release of hacked information damaging to Clinton.
We’ve already seen hints of this. During the campaign, Trump himself praised Wikileaks, the portal that released the Hillary-damaging information, and publicly implored the Russian to go find Clinton emails. Roger Stone, one of Trump’s little balls of whack, bragged about communicating with Guccifer 2.0, the hacker(s) who infiltrated the Democratic National Committee. Trump foreign relations adviser Carter Page met with Russian officials in Moscow and in Cleveland during the Republican national convention.
Trump may get some short-term relief from Nunes’ separation-of-powers-violating move Wednesday, but it will likely come back to bite him in the end.