Today House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes gave and extended interview on the subject of the allegations of links between the Trump campaign and Russia. It is pretty much the opposite of every thing you’ve seen in the New York Times and Washington Post. Here is the whole interview:
ITEM: Contacts between Trump aides and Russia
“The intelligence agencies have not provided me or the committee any information about those three Americans communicating with Russians,” Nunes told reporters. He was referring to the three associates of Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who reports alleged were in contact with Russian officials before the campaign.
Asked if the intelligence community told him that the evidence does not exist, Nunes said, “The way it sounds like to me is, is it’s been looked into and there’s no evidence of anything there.”
This is significant and it provides an excellent explanation of why Reince Priebus spoke with the deputy FBI director about going public on the investigation. If it has been investigated and found to be bogus the White House obviously wants to put that story behind them as soon as possible.
ITEM: White House coordinating pushback on media stories
Over the course of the presser, Nunes repeatedly defended efforts by the White House to have members of Congress, including Nunes, push back on a New York Times report alleging that Trump aides were in contact with Russian officials before the election. Nunes said there was nothing wrong with the coordination and said the reports about the White House asking members of Congress for back-up were “odd.”
“How is it compromised if I’m trying to be transparent with the press, and if the White House asks me to talk to a reporter, which by the way, it was one reporter,” Nunes said when asked if he was compromised in his investigation by contacting a reporter referred to him by the White House.
When a reporter noted that the White House asked him to knock down the story, Nunes replied, “No, that absolutely didn’t happen.”
Asked later if he felt pressure from the White House to push back on the reports about Trump aides’ alleged contacts with Russian officials, Nunes replied, “No, if anything it was the opposite.” He repeated that he was only put in touch with one reporter.
“All it was, was a White House communications person passing a number and a name of a reporter over, if I would talk to them following up on what I had already told all of you in the days before that,” he said. “So I’m not sure how you generate a press story out of that. But I can’t control what you guys write.”
Nunes later criticized reporters for being concerned about his coordination with the White House.
“So here you have the White House actually trying to communicate with many of you and trying to communicate with the Congress about what they’re doing, and now suddenly that’s wrong. There’s nothing wrong with that,” he said.
Spot on. The idea that the White House is under some moral, much less legal, obligation to sit passively while it is hammered on a story it knows to be false is bizarre. If you want to know how well that worked out, Karl Rove decided that the White House was not going to roll out evidence of chemical weapons, and specifically of chemical weapons injuring US soldiers, in Iraq even though it had evidence of both. That worked real well. (See here | here | here | here for the stories.)
ITEM: House Intel Committee is investigating leaks of classified information
“There’s been major crimes [sic] have been committed. And what I’m concerned about is this: no one is focusing on major leaks that have occurred here,” he said, citing the example of reports on Trump’s testy call with the Australian prime minister. “A government can’t function with massive leaks at the highest level of our President talking to foreign leaders. And so that I think is one of the focuses that you all should be concerned about. Because these are high level leaks.”
Later in the presser, when asked about calls for a special prosecutor to investigate the alleged contacts between Trump aides and Russia, Nunes said “the only serious crimes we have are leaks that have come out of our government to the press and others.”
ITEM: There was no problem with Mike Flynn calling the Russian ambassador
“I think if the discussions occurred around ensuring that there was no overreaction by the Russian government so that the new administration could do like all the other previous administrations who think they could work with Putin —which all three have been wrong, they cannot work with Putin—if that was what Gen. Flynn did, which is to try to keep the lines of communications open and to see, make sure the Russians didn’t overreact and maybe have some reciprocal attacks on our diplomats or other embassies around the world, that did us a big favor,” he said. “And we should be thanking him, not going after him.”
A reporter began to ask a follow-up question when Nunes cut the reporter off to diss the Logan Act, which bars private citizens from interfering in the U.S. government’s diplomatic efforts with other countries.
“You’re a Logan Act guy? Look, it’s ridiculous. The Logan Act is ridiculous, you guys all know that’s ridiculous,” Nunes said.
Nunes is totally right about this. The piss-ant sanctions imposed by the Obama administration had exactly one purpose: to create a crisis for the incoming administration. Donald Trump was already president elect and Flynn was already on the government payroll as part of Trump’s transition. He had a right and a responsibility, especially if the incoming administration wasn’t crazy about the sanctions, to call and try to smooth things over. The Logan Act bullsh** was dismissed as it deserved to be as the act is facially un-Constitutional and the only reason it is still on the books is because no one has been charged under it since the 18th century.
ITEM: No need for a special prosecutor.
I’ve a couple of posts on this and there is no need to belabor it. Absent an allegation of an actual crime, you dont’ need a special prosecutor. We don’t have a criminal allegation and, according to Nunes, we won’t.