Devin Nunes gave Justice Department leaders a Monday night deadline for more Trump-Russia files. They said no.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) gave the Justice Department until 5 p.m. on Monday to hand over the latest batch of files he has demanded related to the FBI's investigation of President Trump's 2016 campaign and its tie to Russia. On Sunday, Nunes said the thousands of documents the Justice Department recently handed House Republicans about the origins of the FBI's investigation raise additional questions, including "whether the FBI and Department of Justice leadership intend to obey the law and fully comply with duly authorized congressional subpoenas." On Monday, the Justice Department said yes, it had already complied.
"Your letter asks whether the Department and the FBI 'intend to obey' the law," Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote Nunes on Monday afternoon. "We believe that is exactly what the Department and the FBI have been doing." The Justice Department has complied with Nunes' subpoenas while protecting ongoing investigations in a manner "consistent with the law," Boyd added. The investigation is now being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and Nunes seems particularly interested in confidential informants the FBI used in the beginning of the investigation.
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), criticized the Nunes-led effort "to seek documents in a pending investigation for the purpose of assisting the Trump legal team or, if the Justice Department refuses, using that refusal to undermine Mueller's investigation or give the president a pretext to fire Rod Rosenstein," the deputy attorney general. Trump, meanwhile, has supported the efforts by Nunes, a member of his presidential transition executive committee, and on Monday morning the president tweeted a threat to involve himself in the "totally discredited and very expensive Witch Hunt" if the Justice Department doesn't give over the "requested documents." Peter Weber
4 Democrats, and Trump's chief of staff, will now attend Thursday's classified FBI informant briefing
Only two members of Congress — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif) and House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) — will be at a noon Justice Department briefing on Thursday about an FBI informant who contacted members of President Trump's campaign in 2016. But after protests from Democrats and some Republicans that only two House Republicans and no Democrats were invited, there will now be a second briefing at 2 p.m. with the Gang of 8 — the top Senate and House leaders and intelligence committee members from both parties — plus Gowdy. Despite a previous assurance from White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that "no member of the White House staff" would be at the top secret briefing, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will attend both briefings.
Representing U.S. intelligence and law enforcement at the briefing will be Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Director of Intelligence Dan Coats. The Justice Department hasn't said what information will be shared with lawmakers and Kelly about the informant.
The invitees to the second meeting are Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). Ryan will not attend, due to a "longstanding schedule commitment," according to spokeswoman AshLee Strong, and three Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans — Chuck Grassley (Iowa), John Cornyn (Texas), and Lindsay Graham (S.C.) — have also asked to attend.
Kelly brokered the meetings at Trump's insistence, amid unsubstantiated claims by Trump that the FBI "spied" on his campaign for political, not counterintelligence, reasons. His personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani says Trump should get access to the information, too, even though he's a subject of the investigation. Peter Weber
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