THE “NUNES-FLYNN” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATES THROUGH FEB. 12, 2018

The motivation for Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) persistent efforts to obstruct the Trump-Russia probe became clearer last week. Specifically, we learned that on Dec. 23, 2016, Nunes gave an interview to Newsweek. At best, it will certainly land him in an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller. At worst, well…

When Nunes spoke with Newsweek, he was on the executive committee of Trump’s presidential transition team. Here’s what he said about his relationship with national security-designate Mike Flynn:

“This guy was one of the best intelligence officers in several generations…. Flynn is extremely smart. He really is top notch… I talk to Flynn virtually every day, if not multiple times a day. Seldom there’s a day that goes by that I don’t talk to Flynn, and especially right after the campaign, directly.” (emphasis supplied)

Now go to the Trump-Russia Timeline and click on Mike Flynn. Here’s what was happening with him around the time of Nunes’ interview:

Late November 2016: Flynn tells senior Trump advisers that he has scheduled a meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Dec. 1, 2016: Flynn, Kislyak, and Jared Kushner meet privately, and Kushner reportedly suggests to Kislyak the possibility of establishing a secret back-channel through which the Trump administration could communicate directly with the Kremlin — and without the knowledge of US intelligence officials.

Mid-December 2016: Flynn, Kushner, and Steve Bannon meet with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, who reportedly arranges a January meeting in the Seychelles islands between Trump supporter Erik Prince (Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos’s brother) and a Russian close to Putin.

Dec. 22, 2016: Flynn lobbies Kislyak directly (and, perhaps, illegally) about Russia’s upcoming UN vote on Israeli settlements. (Flynn later lies to federal investigators about it.)

DEC. 23, 2016: NUNES’ INTERVIEW WITH NEWSWEEK

Dec. 28-31, 2016: Flynn speaks with certain members of Trump’s transition team about his discussions with Kisylak. The topic is President Obama’s new sanctions against Russia for its interference in the US election. Kislyak tells Flynn that Putin will not retaliate for the sanctions, (Flynn later lies to federal investigators about his conversations with Kislyak.)

Jan. 4, 2017: Flynn tells the transition team’s chief legal counsel (and White House counsel-designate) Don McGahn that Flynn is under federal investigation for his lobbying activities on behalf of entities connected to the Turkish government.

To follow the action from this point, go to the Trump-Russia Timeline, click on Devin Nunes, and discover his publicly known efforts to obstruct and undermine the Trump-Russia investigation. His fears of where the truth could take him personally are well-grounded.

Members of Congress have immunity from criminal liability for acts that are an integral part of their legislative duties. But such “speech or debate” immunity provides no protection for whatever Nunes may have done while serving on Trump’s transition team. Nor could it protect him from charges that he obstructed justice in connection with the investigation of such wrongdoing.

Russian Interference

Another important and under-reported story of the week was lost in Nunes’ nonsense over his distracting attack on the FBI. On Jan. 10, 2018, Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released a report detailing how Putin operates as he seeks to undermine Western democracy.

Among the highlights of the 200-page report:

  • Putin’s goal: Amass personal wealth and power
  • Means and methods:
    • Control internal government intelligence agencies
    • Dismiss the truth as “FAKE NEWS”
    • Spread disinformation
    • Operate without meaningful legislative oversight
    • Sow division among Western allies
    • Exploit explosive issues to divide Americans 

Sound familiar? The report notes that Trump has stood “practically idle” in dealing with Putin’s ongoing attacks on American democracy.

One more thing: With Rachel Brand’s resignation on Feb. 9, 2018, Trump’s path to undermining Mueller’s investigation got a lot easier.

Here’s a complete list of the latest Trump-Russia Timeline updates:

EARLY JULY 2016: Steele Contacts FBI About His Trump Findings (revision of previous entry)

NOV. 8, 2016: Election Day Troubles (revision of previous entry)

DEC. 23, 2016: Nunes Talks to Flynn Daily

JAN. 10, 2018: Senate Report: Putin’s Attacks on Democracy

FEB. 2, 2018: Nunes Moves Inquiry To State Dept.

FEB. 5, 2018: House Intelligence Committee Votes to Release Response to Nunes Memo

FEB. 5, 2018: Trump’s Lawyers Don’t Want Him to Testify

FEB. 6, 2018: Tillerson: Russia Already Meddling in 2018 Midterms

FEB. 8, 2018: Grassley Says Release of Don Jr. and Other Transcripts Will Take Weeks

FEB. 8, 2018: Trump Tweets

FEB. 9, 2018: Democrats Rebut Grassley/Graham Criminal Referral on Steele

FEB. 9, 2018: Rachel Brand Resigns

FEB. 9, 2018: Trump Objects to Releasing Democrats’ Rebuttal to Nunes’ Memo

FEB. 10, 2018: Trump Tweets

 

THE “NUNES IMPLOSION” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH FEB. 5, 2018

For weeks, the media focused on Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) memo. On Feb. 2, it landed with a thud and crushed a key GOP talking point. As wrangling continues over the Democrats’ rebuttal, the controversy is working for Trump: Nunes has obscured far more important developments in the Trump-Russia Timeline. In that respect, he’s a recidivist.

First Things First: Killing a GOP Talking Point

Trump and his GOP allies have been pushing the false narrative that the Trump-Russia investigation began as a partisan conspiracy. They base their claim on this sequence of events:

  • After Trump clinched the GOP nomination in 2016, conservative Republicans funding Fusion GPS’s anti-Trump opposition research bowed out and Democrats stepped in.
  • Fusion hired former British MI6 intelligence officer Christopher Steele, a widely respected specialist on Russia.
  • Steele started digging and provided Fusion with raw intelligence that became known as the Steele dossier.
  • Some of Steele’s material became part of the FBI’s Oct. 21, 2016 FISA warrant application to surveil a former Trump foreign policy adviser, Carter Page.
  • From there, the theory goes, the FBI was off to the races on a Trump-Russia investigation that became a partisan “witch hunt.”

Nunes’ memo killed the Trump/GOP talking point. It’s true that, on Oct. 21, 2016 — after Page had left the Trump campaign — the FBI sought and the FISA court issued a warrant to surveil Page. It’s also true that some of Steele’s material was part of the application for that warrant.

But neither Steele nor Page started the FBI investigation. As Nunes’ memo concedes, George Papadopoulos did:

“The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016….”

July v. October. Nunes missed the GOP’s talking point target by three months. For the facts surrounding Christopher Steele’s role in the Trump-Russia story, go to the Trump-Russia Timeline and click on his name. Steele is an American patriot — and he’s not even a US citizen.

The Important Stuff

To understand the facts surrounding how and why the FBI’s investigation began, go to the Trump-Russia Timeline and click on Papadopoulos’ name. Look at what Papadopoulos — then one of only five Trump foreign policy advisers — began doing in March 2016. Look at what he told an Australian diplomat in May 2016, namely, that Russia possessed stolen Clinton emails.

Now click on Carter Page — another of Trump’s five foreign policy advisers in March 2016. This week’s Timeline update revises the first entry for Page (Apr. 8, 2013) to add this:

“On Aug. 25, 2013, Page writes a letter boasting, ‘Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda.’”

Finally, go to the Timeline and click on Devin Nunes to see that his latest farce is reminiscent of earlier antics. In March 2017. he personally delivered to Trump documents allegedly supporting Trump’s tweet that President Obama had “wire tapped” Trump Tower during the campaign. The documents did no such thing. Nothing could because Trump’s claim was bogus from the beginning. Eventually, even congressional Republicans admitted it.

In fact, the supposed bombshell documents that Nunes gave Trump had come from a White House lawyer whom Nunes knew well, Michael Ellis. Until a week earlier, Ellis had served as general counsel of Nunes’ House Intelligence Committee.

As I write this post, Nunes threatens another sideshow relating to his investigation into a State Department envoy — and more memos. The search for partisan conspiracies should focus on Nunes.

The Real Trump-Russia News

Meanwhile, three far more important themes run through this week’s Timeline update, starting with Trump’s persistent preference for personal loyalty over love of country and the rule of law. As calls to “cleanse” the FBI morph into a purge, add the following events to a litany that begins with Trump’s January 2017 request for former FBI Director James Comey’s loyalty:

May 9, 2017: After firing Comey, Trump asks Acting Director Andrew McCabe how he voted in the 2016 election.

December 2017: As Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein meets with Trump prior to Rosenstein’s congressional appearance, Trump asks him if he is on Trump’s “team.”

January 29, 2018: After weeks of Trump’s withering assaults, McCabe resigns. He wasn’t on Trump’s team.

That leads to the second theme in this week’s update: It’s becoming clearer why Trump might want inside help from federal law enforcement officials investigating him. A new witness has emerged in special counsel Robert Mueler’s obstruction of justice investigation.

July 7-9, 2017: As The New York Times breaks the story about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting among Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Russians promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, Mark Corallo — a spokesperson for Trump’s legal team — is on a conference call with Trump and Hope Hicks. The topic is what to tell the media about the Trump Tower meeting. The easy answer would have been “the truth.” That didn’t happen. Corallo has now emerged as a potentially important witness.

Why the continuing Trump cover-up of all things Russian? The answer leads to the third theme, which centers on the most underreported story of the week.

January 29: Trump refuses to impose the sanctions on Russian election interference under a law that passed Congress with nearly unanimous bipartisan support. A few days earlier, top Russian intelligence officers had been in the US meeting with their US counterparts, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

Trump/Nunes attacking the FBI; Trump refusing to impose new sanctions for Russia’s election interference; the media obsessing over Trump’s shiny objects.

All in all, Putin had a good week. The country? Not so much.

Here’s a complete list of this week’s Timeline updates:

APRIL 8, 2013: Russians Attempt to Recruit Page (revision of previous entry)

LATE JULY 2016: FBI Formally Opens Investigation Into Possible Collusion (revision of previous entry)

OCT. 21, 2016: FBI Seeks FISA Warrant On Carter Page

MAY 9, 2017: Trump Fires Comey; Asks McCabe How He Voted (revision of previous entry)

JULY 7, 2017: NY Times Prepares Story on June 9, 2016 Meeting With Russians

JULY 8, 2017: White House Scrambles to Deal with Forthcoming NYT Story; Trump Supervises Media Response

JULY 8, 2017: Donald Trump Jr. Releases First Statement

JULY 8, 2017: Spokesperson for Trump’s Legal Team Offers Different Version of June 9 Meeting

JULY 9, 2017: Trump-Hicks-Corallo Conference Call

JULY 2017: Nunes’ Aide Sends Staffers to Contact Steele (revision of previous entry)

SEPT. 28, 2017: Senators Are Concerned That Trump May Not Enforce New Russia Sanctions (revision of previous entry)

EARLY DECEMBER 2017: Trump Asks Rosenstein If He Is On Trump’s “Team”

JAN. 11, 2018: Trump Calls FBI Agent’s Text “Treason”

WEEK OF JAN. 22, 2018: CIA Director Pompeo Meets With Russian Counterpart; Other Russian Intel Chiefs Also in US

JAN. 24, 2018: Justice Department Cautions Against Release Of Nunes Memo; Trump Erupts (revision of previous entry)

JAN. 28, 2018: Wray Reviews Nunes’ Memo

JAN. 28, 2018: White House Still Wants Nunes’ Memo Released

JAN. 29, 2018: White House Dismisses DOJ Concerns About Nunes’ Memo

JAN. 29, 2018: McCabe Steps Down As FBI’s Deputy Director

JAN. 29, 2018: Trump Defies Congress on Sanctions; CIA Director Says Russian Interference Will Continue

JAN. 29, 2018: DOJ Warns Against Releasing Nunes’ Memo

JAN. 29, 2018: House Intelligence Committee Votes to Release Nunes’ Memo; Nunes Revises Memo Before Sending It To White House

JAN. 29, 2018: Trump Wants Nunes’ Memo Released

JAN. 30, 2018: NBC: Trump Talks About Prosecuting Mueller

JAN. 31, 2018, Schumer Wants Answers Relating to Russian Spy Visit to US

JAN. 31, 2018: FBI Issues Public Statement On Nunes’ Memo

FEB. 2, 2018: Trump Tweets

FEB. 2, 2018: Nunes’ Memo Goes Public; Undermines Trump and GOP Position

FEB. 3, 2018: Trump Tweets

FEB. 3, 2018: Democratic Rebuttal Blasts Nunes Memo

FEB. 5, 2018: Trump Tweets

THE PLOT AGAINST MUELLER: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATES THROUGH JAN. 29, 2018

[NOTE: My Jan. 25, 2018 interview on “BACKGROUND BRIEFING” with Ian Masters is available here: “Updating the Timeline on the Trump-Russia Story.” My appearance begins at the 35-minute mark]

**************

The big news in the latest Trump-Russia Timeline update occurred more than six months ago. In June 2017, Trump told White House counsel Don McGahn that he wanted the Justice Department to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. McGahn balked; Trump blinked; Mueller remains. Plan A — firing Mueller outright — stayed on the shelf. It’s still there.

But Plan B went forward. Around the same time that Trump talked to McGahn about firing Mueller, Trump reportedly directed aides to devise and implement a strategy to undermine Mueller’s investigation. Plan B is still underway in earnest.

A comprehensive timeline of Trump’s efforts to obstruct justice would begin a week after his inauguration, when he asked then-FBI Director James Comey for loyalty. And it would continue to this day with attempts to intimidate witnesses, attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller’s integrity, and frontal assaults on the FBI and the Justice Department. The Trump-Russia Timeline of the reasons for Trump to obstruct justice begins in the 1980s.

This installment focuses on one small slice of the scandal: events surrounding Trump’s newly reported attempt in June 2017 to fire Mueller. Keep the facts straight, add context, and the story tells itself.

May 17, 2017: Trump is still furious that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself from the Trump-Russia investigation, thereby putting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in charge. Eight days after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, Rosenstein names Robert Mueller as special counsel to supervise the FBI investigation.

May 18: Trump denies news reports that he ever asked Comey to end the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation.

May 19: Reuters reports that White House lawyers are investigating ways to undermine Mueller.

Meanwhile, the media find clues to what Mueller may be unearthing. On May 19, The Washington Post reports that Mueller has identified a current White House official as a “person of interest” in the investigation. Most observers believe it’s Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. On May 26, the Post reveals that during a previously undisclosed meeting with Russian Ambassador Kislyak on Dec. 1, 2016, Jared Kushner had sought a communications “back-channel” with the Kremlin. And then Reuters follows with a May 27 article about previously undisclosed communications between Kushner and Kislyak during the campaign.

June 2-3: The press reports that Mueller has assumed control of grand juries investigating Trump’s former national security adviser Mike Flynn and former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

June 7: Vox reports that Comey has corroborating witnesses for his reported assertion that, during an Oval Office conversation in February 2017, Trump asked him to back off the Flynn investigation.

June 8: Comey testifies publicly before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He confirms that Trump asked for his loyalty, told him privately in the Oval Office that he hoped Comey would “let Flynn go,” and thereafter sought Comey’s assistance in “lifting the Russia cloud” over his presidency. He also identifies a handful of top FBI officials who can corroborate his testimony.

After Comey’s testifies, Trump’s legal team reportedly is preparing a complaint to be filed with the Justice Department against Comey for “leaking” his memos about their loyalty dinner.

June 9: Trump accuses Comey of lying under oath and tweets:

Sometime during this period, Trump tells aides to devise and carry out a plan to discredit the senior FBI officials whom Comey had named as corroborating witness to their private conversations, according to subsequent reporting by Foreign Policy. Trump and his supporters have to “fight back harder,” Trump reportedly says.

June 11: The New York Times reports that White House aides are asking Trump’s personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, if they need their own lawyers.

June 12: Trump confidant Chris Ruddy tells PBS NewsHour that Trump is “considering, perhaps, terminating the special counsel.”

June 13: Rosenstein testifies that he hasn’t yet seen the “good cause” required to fire Mueller.

June 14: The Washington Post reports that Mueller may be targeting Trump for obstruction of justice.

June 15: Trump tweets:

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence — who had headed Trump’s presidential transition team — hires his own outside lawyer to deal with Trump-Russia matters. The Washington Post reports that Mueller is investigating Jared Kushner’s finances. And The Wall Street Journal says that White House counsel Don McGahn is concerned that investigators could construe private meetings between Trump and Kushner as an effort to coordinate their stories.

June 15: Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein issues a curious statement that cautions against public reliance on “anonymous” officials and “anonymous” allegations.

June 16: Rosenstein reportedly tells colleagues that he might have to recuse himself from supervising Mueller’s investigation.

June 16: A Trump tweet takes aim at Rosenstein:

And all of that preceded this week’s bombshells: Details surrounding the infamous June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting among Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Russians promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton; Trump reportedly asking Rosenstein if he was on Trump’s team; and Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) ongoing attacks on the DOJ and the FBI. More about those in next week’s Timeline update.

Crisis Over Or Intensifying?

Some observers are now breathing a sigh of relief. They say that the country survived the June episode and Trump wouldn’t try to fire Mueller again. Why not? Since June, the investigation has moved closer to Trump’s inner circle, and Mueller has secured two indictments, two guilty pleas, and at least two cooperating witnesses (one is Mike Flynn).

For now, Trump and a complicit GOP Congress are following Plan B: Hollow out the investigation by attacking Mueller’s personal integrity, intimidating potential witnesses, and undermining the integrity of FBI and the Justice Department. However, Trump’s ever-present desire to fire Mueller and terminate the investigation remains.

But beware of Plan C. While watching Mueller, keep a close eye on the fate of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who supervises him. If Trump fires Rosenstein, Trump’s hand-picked replacement could gut Mueller’s investigation from within.

Will Trump await the next round of indictments before acting on his instinct for self-preservation and — one way or another — terminate Mueller’s Trump-Russia probe? The more important question is whether the Republican Congress will allow him to get away with it if he does.

Here’s a complete list of this week’s new entries:

SUMMER: 2015: Dutch Intelligence Notifies US Intelligence About Russian Hack of DNC

SEPT. 1, 2016 – NOVEMBER 15, 2016: Russians Tweet To Promote Trump

FEB. 29, 2016: Manafort Pitches Himself to Trump (revision of previous entry)

DEC. 26, 2016: Russian Intelligence Officer Found Dead

MAY 9, 2017: Trump Fires Comey; Questions McCabe (revision of previous entry)

SOMETIME IN JUNE 2017: Trump Wants Mueller Fired; McGahn Threatens To Resign

JUNE 8, 2017: Comey Testifies Before Senate Intelligence Committee; Trump Launches Counteroffensive (revision of previous entry)

SOMETIME IN DECEMBER 2017: Sessions Pressures McCabe

DURING THE WEEK OF JAN. 15, 2018: Mueller Interviews Sessions

JAN. 23, 3018: Trump Tweets

JAN. 23, 2018: Democrats Seek Social Media Info About Nunes’ Memo

JAN. 23, 2018: Mueller Seeks To Question Trump

23, 2018: Top House Democrats Blast GOP Attack on Mueller and the FBI

JAN. 23, 2018: Sarah Sanders Says Trump Wants Transparency On Nunes Memo

JAN. 24, 2018: Key Democrats Want to Share Testimony With Mueller

LATE-JANUARY 2018: Nunes Refuses FBI and Senate Intelligence Committee Requests to View Memo

JAN. 24, 2018: Justice Department Cautions Against Release Of Nunes Memo

JAN. 24, 2018: Trump Wants Nunes Memo Released

JAN. 24, 2018: Trump Says He’d “Love” To Testify Under Oath For Mueller; Trump’s Attorneys Backpedal

JAN. 24, 2018: Trump Says He Was Only “Fighting Back”; Hopes Mueller Will Be Fair

JAN. 25, 2018: Nunes Gets Local Heat

JAN. 26, 2018: Trump Calls Reports Of His Order to Fire Mueller “Fake News”

MEDIA MINEFIELD AHEAD

On Jan. 24, 2018, NBC posted an article about Michael Flynn’s Jan. 24, 2017 interview with the FBI. Two-thirds of the way into the piece, this grabbed my attention:

“McGahn did not later ask Flynn if he lied to the FBI, one person familiar with the matter said. This person said it was unclear if Flynn intended to lie and that McGahn did not conclude that Flynn had lied to the FBI until after he had been fired. It was at that time in late winter or early spring that the White House received a request from the FBI for phone records and other documents related to Flynn that McGahn and other top officials concluded he had lied in his interview and was otherwise under investigation, this person said.” (emphasis supplied)

That description of events is wrong. NBC should not have run it just because a person said it.

Mistakes Happen; This Is Something Else

“This person” fed the NBC reporter, Carol E. Lee, incorrect information. The disturbing aspect is that, in the face of known facts refuting the person’s” attempt to rewrite history, NBC published it.

Who benefits from such disinformation? In this case, the article is self-revealing: “McGahn and other top officials.”

The Facts

Jan. 24, 2017: Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s office contacts national security adviser Mike Flynn’s scheduler to set up the FBI’s interview with Flynn. Three weeks earlier, Flynn’s lawyer had informed then-White House counsel-designate Don McGahn that Flynn was already under investigation for his dealings with Turkey.

Jan. 24, 2017: FBI agents interview Flynn.

Jan. 26, 2017: Acting Attorney General Sally Yates informs McGahn that, based on recent public statements of White House officials including Vice President Mike Pence, Mike Flynn had lied to Pence and others about his late-December conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. According to Sean Spicer, Trump and a small group of White House advisers were “immediately informed of the situation.”

Jan. 27, 2017: McGahn asks Sally Yates to return to the White House for another discussion about Flynn. He asks Yates, “Why does it matter to the Department of Justice if one White House official lies to another?” Yates explains that Flynn’s lies make him vulnerable to Russian blackmail because the Russians know that Flynn lied and could probably prove it.

According to subsequent reporting by Foreign Policy, McGahn researches “federal law dealing both with lying to federal investigators and with violations of the Logan Act, a centuries-old federal law that prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments.” McGahn’s records indicate that he then warns Trump about Flynn’s possible violations.

Feb. 13, 2017: Flynn resigns.

Dec. 2, 2017: Trump tweets:

That evening, White House sources tell CBS that Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, had written the tweet. Dowd then tells NBC, CNN and ABC that he wrote it.

Dec. 3, 2017: The Washington Post reports:

“President Trump’s personal lawyer said Sunday that the president knew in late January that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had probably given FBI agents the same inaccurate account he provided to Vice President Pence about a call with the Russian ambassador.

“Trump lawyer John Dowd said the information was passed to Trump by White House counsel Donald McGahn, who had been warned about Flynn’s statement to the vice president by a senior Justice Department official.” (emphasis supplied)

A cursory review of the factual record would have revealed that the person in the Jan. 24, 2018 article was seeking to enlist NBC’s help in rewriting history. Mission accomplished. As the country enters the most dangerous phase of the Trump-Russia investigation, the media cannot succumb to systematic disinformation emanating from Trump defenders or others seeking to protect themselves. When in doubt, the Trump-Russia Timeline is only a click away.

THE “DEVIN NUNES STRIKES AGAIN” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPATES THROUGH JAN. 22, 2018

For the third straight week, the theme of the Trump-Russia Timeline Update is GOP complicity. In that ongoing race to the bottom, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) continues to distinguish himself.

Members of Congress enjoy broad immunity from prosecution for criminal wrongdoing. But it’s not unlimited, and it won’t cover Nunes’ role as a member of Trump’s transition team. Loyalty to Trump is one thing, but perhaps Nunes’ personal exposure also helps explain his obstructionism.

Nunes, Flynn, and Turkey

For the first part of the Nunes complicity exercise, go to the Timeline and click on two names: Nunes and Michael Flynn. Highlights:

July 2016: Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn denounces Turkey’s President Erdoğan.

Aug. 2016: A businessman close to Erdoğan hires Flynn’s private consulting firm.

Sept. 19, 2016: Flynn discusses with top Turkish foreign ministers the prospect of kidnapping Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish cleric who had led a popular uprising against Erdoğan.

Nov. 8, 2016: Reversing his prior condemnation of Erdoğan, Flynn publishes an op-ed blasting Gülen.

Nov. 11, 2016: Trump names Nunes to the presidential transition team. Coincidentally, Nunes chairs the Select Intelligence Committee that will conduct the House investigation into Trump shenanigans.

Mid-December 2016: Flynn and Turkish officials again meet to discuss the prospect of kidnapping Gülen.

Dec. 28-29, 2016: As Flynn discusses sanctions with the Russian ambassador, he’s in direct communication with at least one of Nunes’ fellow transition team members, K.T. McFarland.

Jan. 18, 2017: Nunes attends a breakfast meeting with Flynn and Turkey’s foreign minister.

Nunes – The Great Obstructor

This week’s Timeline Update includes Nunes’ faux investigation of the FBI’s alleged abuses. For the second part of the Nunes complicity exercise, go to the Timeline and click on Nunes and Christopher Steele.

March 4, 2017: Furious that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the Trump-Russia investigation, Trump claims falsely that the Obama administration had his Trump Tower “wires tapped” during the campaign.

March 7, 2017: Three days later, Michael Ellis, the 32-year-old general counsel to Nunes’ House committee, joins the White House counsel’s staff as “special assistant to the president, senior associate counsel to the president, and deputy National Security Council legal adviser.”

March 22, 2017: After admitting that no evidence supports Trump’s wiretapping claim, Nunes engages in a charade. He bypasses the Intelligence Committee and goes directly to the White House with supposedly dynamite evidence: Prior to the inauguration, American intelligence agencies conducting foreign surveillance may have incidentally picked up Trump associates. Trump says that Nunes’ information makes him feel “somewhat vindicated” about his bogus wiretapping claim.

March 30, 2017: The New York Times reports that Nunes’ sources for the information that he’d taken to Trump are two members of the Trump administration: Ezra Cohen-Watnick, an NSC staffer whose job Trump personally had saved around March 13, and Michael Ellis, the former general counsel of Nunes’ House Intelligence Committee! The supposedly revelatory material had made a circular trip: from Nunes’ man in the White House — to Nunes — and then back to Trump. But for a week, Nunes’ farce had fueled another Trump diversionary mission.

Sept. 1, 2017: The Justice Department acknowledges that it has no evidence to support Trump’s wiretapping claims. But Nunes pivots to an equally baseless claim: Obama administration officials engaged in improper “unmasking” of Trump associates mentioned in intelligence reports. So Nunes subpoenas President Obama’s former national national security adviser, Susan Rice. She reportedly testifies that the unmasking related to secret, pre-inaugural meetings between Trump aides and representatives of the United Arab Emirates at Trump Tower — perhaps for the purpose of establishing a back-channel for Trump communications with Russia. When that truth emerges, even Nunes’ fellow Republicans walk away from his spurious claims.

Oct. 4, 2017: Nunes issues subpoenas as part of his assault on Fusion GPS and the Steele dossier. Rather than deal with evidence proving that much of the dossier is true, Nunes attacks the messengers.

Jan. 3, 2018: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) approves Nunes’ effort to obtain FBI documents and employee testimony aimed at discrediting the Bureau. For months, Nunes and a select group of Republicans have been working on that project. He’s also trying to manufacture a case against special counsel Robert Mueller and the Justice Department.

And Now This

On Jan. 18, 2018, the House Intelligence Committee votes to release Nunes’ four-page memorandum of FBI abuses to all GOP representatives. Among other items, it reportedly asserts that the FBI used information from the Steele dossier to obtain a FISA warrant targeting Carter Page. Apart from being incorrect factually, that premise is yet another diversion from the central issue: Putin’s interference in the election to help Trump win.

Ranking Committee member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), says that Nunes’ memo is a “profoundly misleading set of talking points drafted by Republican staff attacking the FBI and its handling of the investigation. Rife with factual inaccuracies and referencing highly classified materials that most of Republican Intelligence Committee members were forced to acknowledge they had never read, this is meant only to give Republican House members a distorted view of the FBI. This may help carry White House water, but it is a deep disservice to our law enforcement professionals.”

More Than Nunes

For this week’s Update, other noteworthy items include:

— Russia, Trump, and the NRA. Keep an eye on that one.

— Congressional appearances by Steve Bannon and Corey Lewandowski. Trump’s defense has entered the “fight everything” stage. While the White House feigns cooperation with investigations, witnesses are refusing without justification to testify in congressional hearings. (Bannon’s refusal is at the White House’s direction.)

— Fusion GPS’s road map. In testimony released on Jan. 18, 2018, Glenn Simpson gave congressional investigators a road map of leads — banks, real estate brokers, travel records, and the like. Until Democrats control the relevant committees, Congress won’t pursue them.

Here’s the complete list of this week’s Timeline Updates:

JUNE 9, 2016: Don Jr., Manafort, Kushner Meet With Russian Lawyer (revision of previous entry)

OCT. 31, 2016: NYT Story Sours Steele on FBI; Steele and Simpson Go To The Press (revision of previous entry)

AFTER THANKSGIVING 2016: Steele and Simpson Talk To Bruce Ohr

JAN. 20, 2017: Velesnitskaya, Akhmetshin, and Butina Attend Trump Inauguration Festivities

SEPT. 13, 2017: Rice’s Reasons for ‘Unmasking’ Trump’s Associates Satisfies GOP (revision of previous entry)

NOV. 14, 2017: Fusion GPS’s Simpson Testifies Before House Intelligence Committee

JAN. 9, 2018: Mueller Subpoenas Bannon

JAN. 12, 2018: Mueller Seeks May 14 Trial Date For Manafort (revision of previous entry)

JAN. 16, 2018: Bannon Follows White House Directive In Refusing To Answer Questions From House Intelligence Committee

JAN. 16, 2018: White House Asserts Cooperation With Russia Probe

JAN. 17, 2018: Bannon Agrees To Interview With Special Counsel

JAN. 17, 2018: Sen. Flake Blasts Trump’s Assault On Truth

JAN. 17, 2018: Lewandowski Fails To Answer House Intelligence Committee Questions

JAN. 18, 2018: FBI Investigating Whether Russian Money Going To NRA Helped Trump

JAN. 18, 2018: House Releases Simpson Transcript

JAN. 18, 2018: Nunes Memo Attacks FBI

 

ON A BEAR HUNT CHASING RABBITS: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATES THROUGH JAN. 15, 2018

During the Watergate investigation, Republicans wanted the Select Committee chaired by Sen. Sam Ervin (D-NC) to expand the scope of its inquiry to alleged Democratic skulduggery during the 1964 and 1968 elections. Ervin warned that such a diversion would be “as foolish as the man who went bear hunting and stopped to chase rabbits.”

The key difference between 1972 and 2018 is that the GOP-controlled Congress is directing the hunt for wrongdoing by a Republican president. On Jan. 9, 2018, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) reiterated Sen. Ervin’s sentiment on the Senate floor, chastising Republicans for sending the Trump-Russia investigation down rabbit holes. It’s the theme for this week’s Trump-Russia Timeline Update.

Grassley Revealed, Again

Last week’s Update — the “Complicit GOP Edition” — saw Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) joining with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in a public relations ploy, namely, referring former MI6 intelligence officer Christopher Steele to the FBI for criminal investigation. It was a publicity stunt because the referral related to alleged misstatements that Steele had made to…the FBI! And it was based on information that the Senate Judiciary Committee had received from… the FBI!

In June 2016, Fusion’s Glenn Simpson hired Steele to investigate Trump’s connections to Russia. On Aug. 22, 2017, the staff attorneys on Grassley’s committee interviewed Simpson. Shortly thereafter, Grassley said he’d hold a committee vote on whether to release the transcript, but he never did.

On Jan 9, 2018, Sen Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) released the transcript unilaterally, revealing why Grassley and other Trump defenders wanted to suppress it. The questions from attorneys working for the Republicans on Grassley’s committee reflect a desperate attempt to gain Simpson’s support for two false GOP narratives. One Republican talking point is that Russia paid for the creation of the Steele dossier. Another is that the dossier was the genesis of the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation. Simpson’s answers destroyed both. Even so, two days after Feinstein released the transcript, Trump tweeted the lies again.

Grassley’s constituents want to know why he’s protecting Trump.

More Detail On Hacks

Beyond rebutting two key GOP diversionary talking points, Simpson worsened Trump’s Russia plight. Using the Trump-Russia Timeline provides context for the newest entries:

March 19, 2016: Russians hack the email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta and obtain at least 50,000 emails.

— But until April 29, 2016, the DNC itself didn’t realize that its computer system had been hacked. Go to the Timeline and click on George Papadopoulos to see that three days earlier Russians had told Papadopoulos that they had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton — thousands of stolen emails — and wanted to help Trump win the election. In mid-May, Papadopoulos tells an Australian diplomat about the Russian “dirt” on Clinton, and the information makes its way to the FBI.

— June 12, 2016: The DNC tries to get ahead of the hacking story, only to find that Julian Assange says his organization, WikiLeaks, possesses Clinton emails “pending publication.” (In January 2017, the US intelligence community reports its unanimous conclusion that Russia used WikiLeans to disseminate the stolen DNC emails. Even more revealing, go to the Timeline, click on Julian Assange, and see the intersections among Assange, Jared Kushner, Roger Stone, and Cambridge Analytica — where Steve Bannon had previously been a vice president.)

— Meanwhile in June 2016, Fusion GPS — originally retained by Republicans investigating then-candidate Trump — hires Christopher Steele to dig more deeply into Trump’s Russia connection. (For more go to the Timeline and click on Christopher Steele.)

— By early July 2016, according to Simpson, Steele believes that he has discovered an ongoing criminal conspiracy — what Simpson later tells Grassley’s staff is a “crime in progress.” Specifically, Russia seeks to divide the Western alliance by cultivating Trump as a presidential candidate. Even worse, the Russians have compromising material on Trump. Steele contacts the FBI’s Rome field office about what he views as a grave US national security threat.

— In September 2016, according to Simpson, the FBI tells Steele that it has Trump-Russia intelligence from a human source inside the Trump organization. Now the FBI wants to see what Steele has compiled on Trump-Russia.

Another Crime In Progress?

That takes us to the Update entries concerning a story in The New York Times on Oct. 31, 2016 — a “Halloween surprise” that becomes central to Steele’s subsequent actions.

Oct. 25-26, 2016: Trump campaign adviser Rudy Giuliani speaks publicly about an upcoming “surprise.”

Oct 28: FBI Director James Comey announces the FBI’s renewed interest in Clinton’s emails. Commenting on the news, Giuliani says he’s heard from FBI agents that there was a “revolution” going on inside the FBI” about Comey’s closing of the Clinton investigation in July, and Comey was “feeling the pressure.”

Oct. 31: The New York Times publishes a story that the FBI had investigated Trump and, essentially, found no connection to Russia. According to Simpson, Steele finds the Times report an unpleasant “Halloween surprise.” He worries that someone is manipulating the FBI for political purposes. It appears to him that FBI insiders may be feeding false information to the Times, and the Times is running with it. Steele concludes that the FBI is no longer a reliable actor in getting to the truth about Trump-Russia. So he stops talking to the FBI about his findings.

Who inside the FBI was feeding Giuliani? Who was feeding false information to the Times about the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation? If there is a scandal to be found in the FBI relating to the 2016 election, it may well involve surreptitious efforts of rogue agents wanting Trump to win — not current GOP diversions relating to Hillary Clinton’s email server or “Uranium One.”

Democracy At Work

Meanwhile, Sen. Grassley’s town hall visit to what he thought would be a friendly, conservative rural county in Iowa gave him an unwelcome taste of democracy:

“I think you’re protecting the president and protecting his game about shifting the attention away from Russia,” a 72-year-old constituent told him.

It’s getting hotter in the rabbit holes.

Other nuggets appear this week’s Trump-Russia Timeline updates. Here’s the complete list:

SEPTEMBER 2015: Anti-Trump Republicans Hire Fusion GPS To Investigate Trump

SEPTEMBER AND OCTOBER 2015: FBI Notifies DNC of Possible Russian Hacking (revision of previous entry)

NOVEMBER 2015: FBI Again Tells DNC About Russian Hacking

MARCH 19, 2016: Russians Hack Podesta’s Email

APRIL 29, 2016: DNC Notices Suspicious Computer Activity (revision of previous entry)

MAY 2016: Fusion GPS’s Republican Funders Bow Out

MAY-JUNE 2016: Fusion Hires Christopher Steele

JUNE 12, 2016: WikiLeaks Has Clinton Emails; DNC Tries To Get Ahead Of Hacking Story

EARLY JULY 2016: Steele Contacts FBI About His Trump Findings

MID-TO-LATE SEPTEMBER 2016: “A Crime In Progress…”

OCT. 25-26, 2016: Giuliani Discusses Coming “Surprise”

OCT. 28, 2016: Comey Announces FBI Is Investigating New Clinton Emails; Giuliani Speaks About FBI “Revolution” (revision of previous entry)

OCT. 31, 2016: NYT Story Sours Steele on FBI

AUG. 22, 2017: Simpson Appears Before Senate Judiciary Committee Attorneys (revision of previous entry)

EARLY NOVEMBER 2017: Mueller Adds Veteran Cyber Prosecutor To Team

DEC. 29, 2017: Trump Grants Deutsche Bank Waiver On Penalty

JAN. 3, 2018: Trump’s Selects Interim US Attorney With Deutsche Bank Connection

JAN. 5, 2018: Interim US Attorney Chooses Former Deutsche Bank General Counsel As Deputy

JAN. 9, 2018: Feinstein Releases Fusion GPS Transcript

JAN. 9, 2018: Cohen Sues Fusion GPS and BuzzFeed

JAN. 9, 2018: Sen. Whitehouse Blasts GOP Investigations

JAN. 10, 2018: Trump Tweets

JAN. 10, 2018: Trump Waffles On Mueller Interview

JAN. 10, 2018: Deripaska Sues Manafort and Gates

JAN. 11, 2018: Trump Tweets

JAN 11, 2018: Trump To WSJ: Russia Investigation Is A Hoax

JAN. 12, 2018: Mueller Seeks May 14 Trial Date For Manafort

JAN. 12, 2018: Grassley Under Fire At Town Hall Meeting

JAN. 12, 2018: Will Pence Testify?

THE “COMPLICIT GOP” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATES THROUGH JAN. 8, 2017

Last week, Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, dominated the news. A far more important story is unfolding in real time: As new facts emerge about Trump’s attempts to obstruct the Trump-Russia investigation, the GOP is intensifying efforts to thwart serious inquiry into the scandal.

The Obstruction Story Line Continues To Develop

The New York Times reported that in March 2017, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions faced increasing pressure to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, Trump gave White House counsel Don McGahn an assignment: lobby Sessions to remain where he could protect Trump. When McGahn failed, Trump was furious.

“Where’s my Roy Cohn?” he reportedly asked, referring to Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s dark aide — a “fixer” who, decades ago, had represented Trump personally.

Students of the Trump-Russia Timeline aren’t surprised at this latest news about Trump’s obstruction efforts. Go to the Timeline and click on “James Comey” to see the complete story, which includes these highlights:

On Jan. 27, 2017, then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates told the White House that Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn was in serious legal trouble over Russia. Immediately thereafter, Trump had a private dinner with then-FBI Director James Comey and asked for Comey’s personal loyalty.

— In February, Trump talked to Comey about “letting Flynn go,” despite the FBI’s ongoing criminal investigation of Flynn and other Trump players in the Russia story.

— In March, Trump reportedly sought assistance from the CIA director and the director of national intelligence in getting Comey to back off the Russia investigation.

— In March and April, Trump asked Comey to help him “lift the cloud” of Russia from his presidency.

— In May, Trump fired Comey — admittedly because of the Russia investigation — and turned to witness intimidation, a standard element in Trump’s Russia playbook.

A short video of these and other key items prepared in August 2017 appears here.

A More Insidious Story In Real Time

With every new revelation about Trump’s pressure on federal law enforcement officials to protect him from whatever truth he fears, the congressional GOP doubles down on aiding and abetting his wrongdoing. Here are the new Timeline entries on that subject:

— Jan. 2: The founders of Fusion GPS described the GOP’s continued obfuscation of the Trump-Russia investigation and its refusal to follow obvious leads that could produce disastrous news for Trump. Rather than focus on the message, congressional Republicans have directed their fire at the messenger. (Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) just released the 300-page transcript of Simpson’s Senate Judiciary Committee staff interview; more about that in the next update.)

— Jan. 3: House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) sided with a former Trump transition team member, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), and against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray. Ryan allowed Nunes to continue diverting attention away from the Trump-Russia story and toward questions about the integrity of the FBI itself. (To understand Nunes’ ongoing role as a Trump enabler, go to the Timeline and click on “Devin Nunes.”)

— Jan. 4-5: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) joined Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in a letter to Rosenstein and Wray. Their missive completed a circle: It referred Christopher Steele to the Justice Department for criminal investigation based on alleged misstatements to the FBI as supposedly revealed in FBI documents that the Senate had received from the FBI!

Consulting the Timeline and clicking on “Christopher Steele” reveals, among other notable entries, December 2016: Graham’s closest ally in the Senate, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), personally delivered Steele’s material to the FBI. Only a year ago, Graham sat with McCain on national television and said that Congress should follow the Trump-Russia investigation “wherever it leads.” Reporters should be asking Graham what happened. In fact, it’s the only question reporters should be asking Sen. Graham.

Meanwhile, we’ve also learned that the Justice Department has been looking at the Clinton Foundation and the Hillary Clinton email server issues, again. Cynics might conclude that the GOP is setting up a Trump-friendly deal: If Democrats back away from Trump-Russia, Republicans will back away from Fusion FPS, Steele, interviews of FBI employees, the Clintons, and any other sand that congressional Republicans can throw in the public’s face.

In short, the GOP’s eagerness to help Trump undermine the Trump-Russia investigation with diversions, distractions, and attacks should be front page news. It’s not.

One More Thing

Finally, Brad Pascale, digital media director of Trump’s 2016 campaign, issued a tweet last week that put Jared Kushner and Eric Trump on the hot seat: “Not one person made a decision without their approval.” Go to the Timeline and click on Brad Pascale and Cambridge Analytica for more context on the significance of that bombshell.

Kushner also got unpleasant shout-outs from Steve Bannon — first in Fire and Fury, and then in Bannon’s subsequent apology to Don Jr., which notably omitted Kushner and nailed Manafort.

Here’s a complete list of this week’s new Timeline entries:

JULY 30, 2014: Manafort Meets With DOJ

APRIL 27, 2016: Sessions, Kushner and Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel (revision of previous entry)

JUNE 9, 2016: Don Jr., Manafort, Kushner Meet With Russian Lawyer (revision of previous entry)

LATE FEBRUARY 2017: Attorney General Sessions Decides To Recuse Himself

AROUND MARCH 1, 2017: White House Lobbies Sessions Not To Recuse Himself

MARCH 20, 2017: Trump Tweets; Comey Testifies; Trump Is Infuriated (revision of previous entry)

MAY 3, 2017: Comey Testifies Again; Trump Erupts

MAY 5, 2017: Sessions Aide Looking For “Dirt” On Comey

MAY 6-7, 2017: Trump Decides to Fire FBI Director Comey (revision of previous entry)

JAN. 2, 2018: Fusion GPS Owners Blast GOP Congressional Cover-up

JAN. 3, 2018: Wolff Book: Bannon Bashes Kushner and Don Jr.

JAN. 3, 2018: Trump Breaks With Bannon

JAN. 3, 2018: Manafort Sues Mueller

JAN. 3, 2018: Rosenstein And Nunes Meet with Ryan And Wray

JAN. 3-4, 2018: Trump’s Attorney Seeks To Block Publication  Of Fire and Fury

JAN. 4, 2018: The Daily Beast: DOJ Looking At Clinton Private E-Mail Server, Again

JAN. 4, 2018: GOP Lawmakers Call On Sessions To Resign

JAN. 4, 2018: Rebekah Mercer Distances Herself From Bannon

JAN. 4, 2018: Trump Tweets

JAN. 5, 2018: Grassley and Graham Ask DOJ To Investigate Steele

JAN. 5, 2018: Trump Tweets

JAN. 5, 2018: DOJ Reopens Clinton Foundation Investigation

JAN. 5, 2018: Brad Parscale Tweets

JAN. 5, 2018: Dowd Calls NYT Report Another “Nothing Burger”

JAN. 6, 2018: Trump Tweets

JAN. 6, 2018: WSJ: Feds Investigating Kushner Cos.

JAN. 7, 2018: Bannon Apologizes To Don Jr.