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