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