Rep. Devin Nunes is the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee charged with investigating the possible collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and state-sponsored Russian hackers working to disrupt the 2016 election and western democracy as a whole. Many have questioned whether Nunes should be involved with the investigation in light of the fact that he was a key executive member of Trump's transition team. The other members of that small team include Dr. Ben Carson, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Governor Chris Christie and the now disgraced Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Several members of that elite team were rewarded for their loyalty to Trump, two were named to cabinet positions. Nunes must’ve been a highly regarded member of the inner circle to be tapped by Trump for that role.
And here we find ourselves with Nunes leading the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and an enemy state. Instead of grilling FBI Director for information on possible collusion, Nunes and the other Republicans on the committee repeatedly used their time to question Director Comey about who leaked the news Lt. Gen. Flynn and AG Jeff Sessions had repeated contact with the Russians. Not interested in the collusion with an enemy state, only interested in who leaked—even going so far as suggesting reporters who published the information should potentially face charges. Seriously.
All of that leads us to the most incredibly infuriating part of Monday’s proceedings. It occurred after the committee hearing ended and Nunes was fielding a few questions in the hallway. David Corn, Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones, joined a press gaggle peppering Nunes with questions and Corn’s report (and video below) are absolutely damning:
After the hearings, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chair of the committee, sort of shrugged when asked why the Republicans had zeroed in on this leak and said almost nothing about Putin's assault on American democracy. Maybe it was "overemphasized," he said. But he contended the Flynn leak was the only crime involved in this widening scandal. When a reporter noted that hacking a political party, stealing its documents, and leaking them would qualify as a crime, Nunes grinned and said: maybe it was, but that was done by a foreign actor.
When I asked Nunes whether he agreed with Trump's recent tweet that the "Russia story" was "fake news" cooked up by Democrats, he wouldn't provide a straight answer. What part of the Russia story was Trump referring to? he asked. I countered: Is this all made up by Democrats? Nunes replied that he didn't know. He was, though, quick to say he has seen no evidence of any coordination between the Trump camp and the Russians during the campaign. But, as another reporter pointed out, the committee has just started its investigation. Oh yeah, Nunes said.
By far the most stunning part of the Q&A came when Corn asked Nunes about Trump campaign advisers Roger Stone and Carter Page, both key figures in this investigation, both widely reported to have had direct contact with the Russian hackers themselves and the Russian ambassador. Nunes reply? “I don’t know those people.” Watch:
Roger Stone has acknowledged being in contact with the Russian hacker during the campaign. The Senate Intelligence Committee sent Roger Stone a letter on February 17, 2017, instructing him to preserve any Russia-related documents.
The Senate committee asked Mr. Stone, who is also under scrutiny from other federal investigators, to “preserve and retain all hard copies and electronically stored information as specified below in furtherance of the committee’s ongoing investigation into Russian actions targeting the 2016 U.S. elections and democratic processes globally.”
Mr. Stone confirmed the existence of the letter, which was dated Feb. 17. However, he said he had received it only on Friday, by email. Mr. Stone has acknowledged trading messages over Twitter with Guccifer 2.0, the online persona that officials believe was actually Russian intelligence officers.
Are we really to believe Rep. Devin Nunes, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has never even heard of Roger Stone? Never heard of Carter Page, who’s done a series of increasingly embarrassing interviews and changed his story several times and now admits he spoke with the Russian ambassador?
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) is absolutely right. Devin Nunes and the other Republicans on the committee have demonstrated, without question, their inability or unwillingness to fully investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and an enemy state. That should worry every American, regardless of political affiliation. A bipartisan, independent special prosecutor is required. Yesterday.
An important update to note that in Feburary, Rep. Nunes acknowledged in late February that he’d been dispatched by the White House to combat the idea appointing a special prosecutor to investigate. At that time, he seemed to know who Roger Stone was then:
Nunes also confirmed Monday that he was one of the lawmakers to whom the White House turned to combat the story. The report mentioned Flynn, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and former campaign aide Carter Page, as well as Trump associate Roger Stone.
Nunes described the White House giving him a phone number for a reporter. He said he did not see anything inappropriate with the request and his follow-up in calling the reporter.
Twitter user @dru_star points to another Nunes interview from February 27. In the interview with Fox News, Stone and Page were specifically mentioned:
Congressman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said on "Your World" that his committee would not partake in a "McCarthyism witch hunt" just because one press report made allegations against American citizens.
Nunes said he will not immediately subpoena former convention manager Paul Manafort Jr., former advisor Roger Stone nor former campaign consultant Carter Page before his committee after their names appeared in the Times' report.