Chairperson Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, and Vice Chairperson Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, the ranking members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sidestepped the chaos and confusion created by the White House and the House Committee on Intelligence over the investigation of claims of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The two leaders displayed bipartisan cooperation and a proper sense of perspective at a press conference where Warner, with a hand on his Republican colleague’s shoulder, said, “I have confidence that Richard Burr … we, together, with the members of the committee, are going to get to the bottom of this.” This is the way to do things.
The Senate committee is investigating the same questions as the House committee, including if there was any interaction between members of Team Trump and Russian officials, as well as if there was Russian interference in the election.
Devin Nunes (R-CA), chairperson of the House Committee on Intelligence, announced to the media that a secret source had provided him with intelligence that suggested President Trump and his team had been “monitored” by U.S. intelligence.
This supported Mr. Trump’s tweeted accusation that President Obama had “wiretapped” Trump Tower during the election. Nunes made a show of going to the White House with the “information” to brief Mr. Trump who, wonder of wonders, immediately told reporters he felt that Nunes bolstered his wiretapping claim.
Mr. Trump has barely been in office but has fired his National Security Adviser Michael Flynn because of communication Flynn had with Russian officials and connections between Flynn and Russia and Turkey which went undiscovered during his “thorough” confirmation hearing.
The chair of the House Committee on Intelligence, without consultation with or support of the committee, made an announcement that dovetailed nicely with the “wiretapping” red herring Mr. Trump tweeted to the world.
When reporters speculated that the source of information for Nunes may have been the White House itself, Press Secretary Sean Spicer barked that it would be absurd for Nunes to brief President Trump on information if the White House itself had given it to him. It’s absurd.
House Speaker Paul Ryan joined the campfire story and said Nunes told him his source was a “whistleblower.” But the fairy tale that Nunes independently received “secret” intelligence which vindicated Mr. Trump’s baseless claims of “wiretapping” from a “whistleblower” was discredited as quickly as it was hailed by Mr. Trump.
Why wouldn’t Nunes reveal the source if it was reliable? Why obfuscate when questioned if everyone — including members of the Intelligence Committees — would want know the source.
The New York Times and The Washington Post reported that the source of Nunes’ information was the White House. Nunes told one reporter that the source was “not a White House staffer” but then backtracked and announced, “I did use the White House to help to confirm what I already knew from other sources.” If it was not so bad, it would be laughable.
It was revealed the information included some gathered from surveillance of foreign parties who had communication with American parties. The information was on a classified system and it was shared with Nunes outside the normal channels of communication.
The “information” should have been delivered to the committee and not to its chair through the back door of the White House. Why would the Republican chairperson of the committee break protocol and mislead the public about the data he received when he is responsible to investigate the allegations that Russia interfered in our presidential election as well as the claim of the Miscommunicator in Chief?
The latest controversy is a promise of what to expect for the next four years. It is likely that the Senate committee will produce the only credible report on what the Russian government did or did not do during the 2016 election.
An attorney for Flynn announced that his client had “a story to tell” but may need immunity from prosecution before he can sing. Why would Flynn need immunity in order to shed light on what has occurred?
The worst part of the whole mess is that, at the very least, it reflects poorly on the credibility of Nunes and the White House. We need leadership without instant, inaccurate and unsupported claims on Twitter.
Nunes appeared on “The Sean Hannity Show” and declared he felt a “duty and obligation” to alert Mr. Trump about what he’d found in the information. Sean Spicer originally denied that the White House had the information which Nunes actually received from the White House. Mr. Hannity added no clarity with the interview.
We have White House officials and the chair of the House Committee on Intelligence making, repeating or supporting false claims to support a scandalous accusation made by Mr. Trump that was only made in order to distract public and official attention from the serious claims that a foreign government interfered in our political process. Mr. Nunes should step down and Mr. Trump needs to put away the smartphone.