It isn't clear yet who blinked in Monday's extraordinary White House meeting between President Trump, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and the FBI director and director of national intelligence over the Justice Department's investigation of Trump's campaign, but the meeting itself was par for the course for Trump, Anderson Cooper said on CNN Monday night. "We know what this is — we've seen it before from President Trump, his surrogates, and supporters whenever Special Counsel Robert Mueller makes a move or some other damaging story hits the president."
This meeting centered around Trump's demand that the Justice Department look for politically motivated spying against his campaign. "The claim of a spy within the Trump campaign comes with, as of yet, little or nothing to back it up and plenty to raise suspicions about its validity, including the central role of someone the president went out of his way to praise today," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Cooper said. For weeks now, Nunes — who was also a leader of Trump's presidential transition team — has been demanding information on a top secret intelligence source the FBI and CIA warned would be in jeopardy if his cover were blown. "Then some right-wing media got ahold of the story," Cooper said, and Nunes' fingerprints were all over those reports.
"The president has been here before, and Devin Nunes has been here before as well," in March 2017, when Nunes briefed Trump on material Nunes had gotten from the White House just days earlier, Cooper said. In that case, "the president rage-tweeted about it, but he never went quite as far about that as he did today." Watch below. Peter Weber
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) seems very intent on getting his hands on information about one specific U.S. intelligence source, though he insists he is "not interested in any individual," as he told The Washington Post on Wednesday. And Monday, as his escalating standoff with the Justice Department over sensitive documents became public, Nunes told reporters that "I've never referenced an individual."
According to an unclassified subpoena reviewed by the Post and CNN, however, Nunes demanded "all documents referring or related to the individual referenced in Chairman Nunes' April 24, 2018, classified letter to Attorney General Sessions," and that's the only material he seeks. Nunes' request so concerned the Justice Department, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and other intelligence officials asked the White House to intervene, arguing that handing over the document would endanger the individual in question — a U.S. citizen and longtime FBI and CIA source who the Post says has helped Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation — and compromise an ongoing investigation.
President Trump has sided with the Justice Department for now, but White House officials are urging Rosenstein and Nunes to compromise. So on Thursday, the Justice Department has invited Nunes and House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) to a classified meeting at the Justice Department to discuss the standoff, the Post and CNN report. House Republicans argue that they are entitled to the documents, even though the Justice Department doesn't usually turn over information about ongoing investigations, and they are skeptical that the source's life is at stake, as Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) told CNN:
Copy of appendix of Nunes subpoena reviewed by @LauraAJarrett says he wants "all documents" involving an individual described as intel source. Conaway told me DOJ is "overplaying" its hands and he's "not convinced" disclosure could lead to loss of lives. https://t.co/Uitv0vqHS3
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 9, 2018
House Intelligence Committee Republicans also seem hurt that the feds don't trust them. The Justice Department "assumes we will immediately turn and leak that information, which would jeopardize potentially sources and methods," said Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), and "that we have a cavalier attitude about such things and we will just release it." Just imagine. Peter Weber
U.S. intelligence says Rep. Devin Nunes is risking lives, U.S. operative with latest document demand
On May 2, President Trump took the rare step of siding with the Justice Department against a cadre of tenacious House Republicans who have been battling Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosentein for increasingly sensitive information about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation and the FBI's Hillary Clinton email investigation, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. In this case, the demand came from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who has ostensibly recused himself from the Russia investigation.
Senior FBI and national security officials made a special plea to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly last Wednesday, and he and Trump "were persuaded that turning over Justice Department documents could risk lives by potentially exposing the source, a U.S. citizen who has provided intelligence to the CIA and FBI," the Post reports. But it's unclear if Trump was told the "information developed by the intelligence source had been provided to the Mueller investigation," and "several administration officials said they fear Trump may reverse course and support Nunes' argument."
It isn't clear what documents Nunes asked for in a classified April 24 letter, but intelligence agencies say it "threatened to cross a red line of compromising sources and methods of U.S. intelligence-gathering," the Post says. "Lawmakers conducting oversight are usually given summaries of the information, but not the intelligence collected directly from wiretaps and sensitive sources," The New York Times explained last week. "Rosenstein and top FBI officials have come to suspect that some lawmakers were using their oversight authority to gain intelligence about that investigation so that it could be shared with the White House," the Times added, citing "a former federal law enforcement official familiar with the department's views."
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters on Tuesday that he hasn't discussed this particular request with Nunes but "we expect the administration to comply with our document requests." You can read more about the standoff at The Washington Post. Peter Weber
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes' (R-Calif.) campaign bankrolls a conservative media site, The California Republican, that looks like a local news site and is classified on Facebook as a "media/news company," Politico reports. The site purports to serve up "the best of U.S., California, and Central Valley news, sports, and analysis," but mostly puts a partisan spin on articles from conservative and mainstream news sites.
The most recent article was titled "Understanding the process behind #ReleaseTheMemo," with a photo of Nunes, who compiled the partisan memo seeking to discredit the Russia investigation. The news itself isn't necessarily "fake," as The California Republican notes in its rebuttal to the Politico article, but a website paid for by a political campaign wouldn't typically be classified as a "news" site, or at least not a real one.
— The California Republican (@CaRepublicanCom) February 11, 2018
The website was registered in mid-2017 by Fresno consultant Alex Tavalian, who told Politico he has registered several domains for the Nunes campaign but was not involved with The California Republican. Nunes chief of staff Anthony Ratekin responded tartly: "Until Politico retracts its multitude of fake stories on Congressman Nunes, we will not go on the record."
Nunes, a member of President Trump's presidential transition leadership, has sharply politicized the House Intelligence Committee, leading the hometown Fresno Bee to call Nunes "Trump's stooge" out "doing dirty work for House Republican leaders trying to protect President Donald Trump in the Russia investigation." Nunes is clearly put off by the bad press, telling Rush Limbaugh last week that "almost every story that runs about me is fake."
Still, his campaign has $3.8 million in cash on hand in a district Trump won by 10 points in 2016, so the negative press doesn't seem to be hurting him much. His main Democratic challenger, Andrew Janz, called The California Republican "typical Devin Nunes," adding: "He's got fake memos, fake websites, and fake news." Peter Weber
Devin Nunes concedes the FBI noted the Trump dossier's partisan origins, undercutting his memo's central claim
One of the central claims in the now-declassified memo compiled for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is that the FBI, in its FISA warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, improperly failed to "disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding [Christopher] Steele's efforts" to uncover Russian ties to President Trump. On Monday, Nunes acknowledged that the FBI did disclose that there was partisan material in the FISA application, in a footnote.
"A footnote saying something may be political is a far cry from letting the American people know that the Democrats and the Hillary campaign paid for dirt that the FBI then used to get a warrant on an American citizen to spy on another campaign," Nunes said in a Fox & Friends interview.
FISA warrants are highly classified, so it's not clear how the FBI footnote deprived the American people of this knowledge, but Nunes conceding that such a footnote exists further undermines his memo. "Notice how 'The FBI LIED about the Steele dossier' has been scaled back to, 'The FBI did not highlight the truth about the Steele Dossier in the part of the application we bothered to read,'" says New York's Jonathan Chait. "So now the main attack on the FBI is about font size."
The House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously on Monday evening to release the committee Democrats' classified rebuttal to the Nunes memo, and if Trump doesn't block its release, we may get a broader picture of the Page FISA warrant by the end of the week. Peter Weber
President Trump and his supporters, including at Fox News, have seized on the memo from Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) to argue that the entire federal investigation of the Trump campaign's cooperation with Russian election meddling and presidential obstruction of justice are part of some fake-news "witch hunt." Special Counsel Robert Mueller undoubtedly has more information than the media, especially on Trump's financial ties, The Atlantic's Julia Ioffe told CNN's Brian Stelter on Sunday, but "there's a lot of there there that we already know."
The problem, Ioffe said, is that the details are really complicated and a little boring. With the Nunes memo, for example, "people feel like they're tuning in in the middle, and they've missed the first three episodes of the season," she said. "People aren't getting into the weeds of this — it's too much."
Explainers and fact-checks might help, Ioffe said, but "part of the problem is that the media sphere is so bifurcated, and on one side we have a very politically motivated media — Fox, Breitbart, InfoWars, etc. — that are pushing a dishonest narrative, frankly, that is politically motivated. And on the other side, we're trying to be, like, 'Well, we're not on any side, here are the details' — and I think people's eyes glaze over."
— Reliable Sources (@ReliableSources) February 4, 2018
If Ioffe's description made your eyes glaze over, you can watch Donald Trump Jr. claim vindication from the Nunes memo on Fox News with a softball-lobbing Jesse Watters. "There is a little bit of sweet revenge in it for me and certainly, probably, the family," Trump said of the memo.
Don Jr. on the Nunes memo: “There is a little bit of sweet revenge in it for me and certainly, probably, the family.” (via Fox) pic.twitter.com/93Z7XOtFQm
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) February 4, 2018
Everything Trump said above is wrong or at least highly contested, but at least it's easy to follow his narrative. Peter Weber
A week after Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines to release the classified memo compiled for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and not release the classified rebuttal written for the committee's top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Schiff is pushing for a do-over on Monday evening. The four-page Nunes memo purports to show that the FBI improperly omitted the political origins of a dossier used to obtain a FISA warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, while the 10-page Schiff memo reportedly shoots those assertions down. While Democrats are still pushing back against the Nunes memo, Nunes says he has other memos in the works.
Even though Republicans blocked the Schiff memo last week, some of those same Republicans, plus House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), have suggested they now favor releasing the memo, so long as sensitive national security information is redacted. If the House Intelligence Committee does approve the memo's release, President Trump has five days to object — he signed off on releasing the Nunes memo unredacted on Friday — and if he does, the full House could overrule him.
Trump has trumpeted the Nunes memo as a document that "totally vindicates" him in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russian election-meddling investigation, an assertion dismissed Sunday by Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee, as well as almost all intelligence experts. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned Trump in a letter that "a refusal to release the Schiff memo ... will confirm the American people's worst fears that the release of Chairman Nunes' memo was only intended to undermine Special Counsel Bob Mueller's investigation." Peter Weber
On Friday, President Trump will sign off on the release of a four-page memo compiled by Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, and committee Republicans, led by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), will likely make it public sometime during the day, White House officials said Thursday. Trump has read the Nunes memo and is expected to clear it for public consumption without any of the redactions requested by the FBI and other intelligence agencies.
The classified memo, released under a never-before-used House rule, apparently purports to show that the FBI did not indicate in a FISA surveillance warrant that one of its sources, Christopher Steele, was working on a dossier funded indirectly by Hillary Clinton. The FBI has expressed "grave concerns" about the fallout and accuracy of the memo, but despite some concerns at the White House, FBI Director Christopher Wray isn't expected to resign over the memo's release. The FBI Agents Association sided with Wray over Trump on Thursday, and former FBI Director James Comey suggested that Nunes and his allies are "weasels and liars."
All should appreciate the FBI speaking up. I wish more of our leaders would. But take heart: American history shows that, in the long run, weasels and liars never hold the field, so long as good people stand up. Not a lot of schools or streets named for Joe McCarthy.
— James Comey (@Comey) February 1, 2018
Democrats call the memo a misleading and potentially dangerous attempt to discredit the FBI to protect Trump from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and Trump has "told advisers that he thinks the memo is 'gaining traction' and could help him convince the public that the Mueller probe is a witch hunt," The Washington Post reports. A number of people in the White House, meanwhile, fear the memo is a "dud," Axios reports, "and there's internal anxiety about whether it's worth angering the FBI director and intelligence community by releasing this information." Peter Weber