House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif. walks through Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, March 24, 2017. Nunes said Friday that Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for President Donald Trump, volunteered to be interviewed by committee members. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The #Resistance tried to take House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes out once before with a totally spurious ethics charge. Now he’s back with a vengeance and the Washington Post is again involved in the effort to stop him. It seems that Nunes’ two big sins are believing that the Russia probe is a sham, p0litically motivated investigation and thinking that the FBI and Justice are more a part of the problem than they are part of the solution.
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.
For the record, I’d like someone to establish some oversight of and boundaries for Robert Mueller. Right now Rosenstein refuses to set parameters on his activities. Why? Maybe he’s just a wuss? Maybe he’s too deeply tied up in the Uranium One fiasco when he was the guy who decided no charges would be filed and who hit a key witness with a “nondisclosure agreement” and Mueller was FBI director? Personally, I welcome any attempt by the House or Senate to push back on an investigation that seems unable or unwilling to answer a single question: Did the Trump campaign try to enlist the aid of Russia during the 2016 election? One suspects unwilling is the answer because he’d have to be blindingly incompetent to not have that answer by now.
But Nunes’s moves coincide with what Democrats say is a coordinated GOP effort to shutter the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe, publicly absolve President Trump of the most serious allegations against him, and refocus the House’s resources against the law enforcement officials, such as Mueller, who continue to investigate Trump.
For months, Democrats have kept an unofficial count of the ways they say Nunes worked behind the scenes during the time he was under ethics investigation to slow or stymie the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe. Nunes never relinquished his sole, unchecked authority to sign off on subpoenas even as he handed the day-to-day operations to Reps. K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas), Gowdy and Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.). People familiar with the Intelligence committee’s work estimated Nunes’s effective veto cost Democrats dozens of requests for interviews and documents that were never sent out, despite repeated entreaties from the minority side.
This includes requests for subpoenas to obtain additional testimony from key figures in the probe who Democrats say were not forthcoming enough in interviews — among them Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. Democrats surmise they might have compelled them to return if not for Nunes’s resistance.
Life is tough when you’re in the minority. The Republican members don’t seem to see it that way.
“Adam’s list is pretty much every character in any Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy novel,” Gowdy said, referring to the Intelligence panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California. “I get the intrigue and the mystery of these unusual-sounding names, but at some point you have to tie it back to what we’re looking at.”
“You can interview anybody that’s ever met a Russian in the government and it’s not going to get you any closer,” said Rooney. “Ten months, how many witnesses? I want to know, ask them how much longer they want to go. How many more witnesses do they need to hear, and specifically which witnesses, and why?”
But to Democrats, the march of witnesses in and out of the committee’s secure interview facility in the Capitol building basement has provided little assurance the probe is being run properly.
The packed schedule, sometimes featuring two or three overlapping interviews per day, has sparked complaints from Democrats that it is impossible to fully prepare for or monitor the investigation’s progress. Even when members are able to focus on one witness at a time, people familiar with the probe said, relevant requested documents often fail to materialize until after the interview has concluded — and the interviewees are hardly ever invited back.
Of course. They aren’t interested in doing the counterintelligence part of the investigation, they are interested in smearing witnesses. Adam Schiff repeatedly left the interview with Donald Trump, Jr. and, mysteriously, CNN got information on Trump Jr.’s testimony before he finished. Schiff has been at Ground Zero of every violation of committee secrecy thus far.
This is the real bottom line.
If there is one aspect of the Russia probe that seems destined to outlast the House Intelligence Committee’s preferred timeline, it is Nunes’s investigation of Fusion GPS, the firm behind a dossier detailing Trump’s alleged connections to Russian officials, financiers and exploits in Moscow. Nunes’s subpoena of the firm’s bank records is caught up in a court battle, and the chairman’s staff is in touch with the office of Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), according to the senator, who is also looking into reports that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party paid for research that ended up in the dossier’s pages.
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.
Bingo. The investigation is going in a way that is going to damage a lot of people in FBI and Justice. And Nunes has correctly decided that the intelligence investigation into the 2016 election is a monumental waste of time. And so the people have a vested interest in the opposite of those two outcomes, in the FBI and in Justice along with the Democrats have decided to start another leak-and-smear campaign against Nunes.