While no one was looking his way, Devin Nunes left the country, but in a sign that Donald Trump is right about the nation’s porous borders, the California congressman made it back. But Nunes didn’t just slip south to sell some milk in Tijuana. He took a trip across the pond, pulled on his trench coat, and went hunting … for spies.
The Atlantic reports that, while the nation was all caught up in the bit about Trump’s personal attorney pleading guilty to eight counts, and Trump’s campaign chair being found guilty on eight other counts—Nunes had his eyes on the real prize: Information that could bring about the downfall of Bruce Ohr. Who, as everyone know is … (Google, Google, Google) a former associate deputy attorney general once in charge of a drug task force who works at the DOJ on a topic that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Trump-Russia investigation. Unless Trump’s whole real estate money laundering scheme has really been a cover to bring Russian drugs into the country. Which seems way more possible than it should.
In any case, Ohr is at the center of a Republican conspiracy theory that paints him as the man who first told the FBI about former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, and kicked off the whole Russia investigation by promoting the contents of the “dossier.” Donald Trump has called Ohr “a disgrace” and said that Ohr’s actions are “disqualifying” for special counsel Robert Mueller. Because … it doesn’t matter. All this is despite the facts that:
- Ohr is not, and never has been, part of Mueller’s investigation
- The investigation started well before Ohr, or anyone else, talked to Christopher Steele
The funny thing is, Devin Nunes is completely aware of both of those facts. But Nunes has been playing along with the idea that Ohr was part of some Deep State conspiracy going back to his Release The Memo memo. And since the actual start of the Russia investigation involves at least one member of Trump’s campaign gushing enthusiastically about his contact with the Russians, it’s import that someone keep trying to sell some Alternative Facts.
So to put a little flesh on the smoldering bones of his theory, Nunes trekked over to London and began trying to find anyone who might have talked to Ohr. And while he was there, he also decided he would try and find a little dirt on Christopher Steele, by—this is true—requesting meetings with the heads of both MI5 and MI6.
It’s unclear if Nunes was disappointed to learn that didn’t mean he got to meet Dame Judy Dench. Though in the end, he didn’t get to meet with any of the people he requested. In normal times with normal people in charge “it is normal for U.K. intelligence agencies to have meetings with the chairman and members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,” but the world is currently anything but normal. So the requested officials pushed Nunes away with a 3.048 meter pole. The congressman did get to meet with the U.K.’s deputy national-security adviser. It’s not clear that he learned anything about Steele or Ohr, but he did learn something about how the British government views Devin Nunes.
This isn’t even the first time Nunes has broken out his double-naught spy gear. Last year two of Nunes’s staffers made the trip to London—without telling the British government they were coming—and tried to waylay Steele. Unsuccessfully. So Nunes tried in person, failed again, and came home absolutely none the wiser.
Bruce Ohr’s real crime seems to be that he has a wife who works for Fusion GPS, the company that was hired to find out information on Trump, and who in turn hired Steele after it was clear that many, many lines led from Trump Tower to the Kremlin. Ohr served as a go-between, with the FBI’s permission, and met with Steele to determine what the former British agent (and frequent FBI source) had discovered.
Those connections have been enough to put the rather obscure Justice Department official in the cross-hairs for threats by Trump, and to make him the “center of the conspiracy” for alt-Reich sites that have moved on from when former CIA director John Brennan was “the center,” which came after former FBI director James Comey was “the center.”
Evidently, it’s very hard to reach the center of an imaginary conspiracy. But Devin Nunes will just keep on licking.