GOP House chair creates outrageous farce to save Trump, attack Obama

House Intelligence Committee chair Devon Nunes, who is a huge Trump ally who helped Trump on his transition, has just gone public with what appears to be blockbuster news: US intelligence picked up communications involving the Trump transition.

While initially wow-worthy, it appears that once again Nunes is providing a distraction for Trump’s disastrous week, rather than doing his job. What Nunes did was outrageous, and it proves once and for all that we need an independent investigation of Trump and Russia.

I’m rushing this out, so please excuse any typos.

What we know

Nunes is all over TV claiming that members of Trump’s transition — and possibly Trump himself, but possibly not (in other words, Nunes doesn’t know) — were caught up in “incidental collection” of ongoing National Security Agency intercepts. Meaning, the US routinely spies on foreigners around the world. While spying on those foreigners, we picked up conversations that members of the Trump transition — i.e., after the election — had with foreigners who we were spying on.

Nunes says that there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with the incidental collection itself. The intercepts were legal, and incidental collection happens all the time. (Just to reiterate, incidental collection is when we eavesdrop on a foreigner and an American happens to talk to that foreigner, and we collect the American’s conversation even though we never intended to spy on the American.)

What Nunes claims to be upset about is the inclusion of the names of those incidental Americans in government reports about the wiretaps. Nunes says the names should have been “masked” in the reports, they should have removed the names from the reports, but they didn’t.

But it gets stranger. Nunes found out about this today, and immediately went to tell Trump, even though Nunes is leading the investigation of Trump. Nunes claims that isn’t improper because the new information doesn’t fall under the Russia investigation. Nonetheless, Nunes now says he’s going to include this new information as part of his Russia investigation, even though a minute ago Nunes said it wasn’t a part of it so it wasn’t improper for him to run and brief Trump.

Nunes did not bother to brief the top Democrat on the House Intel Committee, Adam Schiff, making this look all the more partisan.

Why this matters

1. It’s important to recognize that Nunes isn’t claiming that Team Trump was illegally spied on. He’s claiming that their names should not have been included in government documents reporting on the collection.

2. Why is Nunes briefing Trump? Trump has this information via the NSA, which he runs. Nunes says the collection came via the NSA. So why isn’t the NSA director briefing Trump, why is the House Intel chair doing it? If this came from an NSA staffer, why didn’t that staffer report it to the NSA director himself? Is this an effort by Nunes to cast aspersions on the NSA director — Nunes couldn’t trust him to report it to Trump instead?

3. It sure looks like Nunes, who is as partisan as they come, is trying to help Trump by causing a huge distraction in the middle of the worst week in Trump’s presidency. You’ll recall that the House Intel Committee hearing earlier this week wit the FBI Director and the NSA Director was a disaster for Trump. Both men said there was no evidence that Trump had his wires tapped by Obama. And they revealed that there is an ongoing investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Add that to tomorrow’s vote on health care reform repeal, which isn’t going well, and Trump needed a distraction. Nunes just handed it to him.

4. Why didn’t this information come up during Monday’s hearing?

5. Trump said today that he feels partly vindicated by this news — Trump thinks this news helps prove the case that Obama had his “wires tapped.” In fact, it doesn’t. This news shows that perhaps the Trump transition got legally caught up incidentally. That is not “Obama tapping your wires.” But Trump, who isn’t known for nuance, will see it as just that. And that is a disaster for Republicans. Yes, this story will help detract from the bad news of the week. But it will also empower Trump’s worse instincts (which I wrote about earlier today). Trump will be on a renewed tear, convinced that his debunked conspiracies are all true. And that means more crazy tweets, and more crazy attacks from Sean Spicer at the White House podium. None of this is good news for Trump, his administration, the country or our allies.

This is why, in the end, we need an independent investigation of this entire Russia mess. Nunes is far too partisan to do a fair investigation — at the first chance, when it was needed most, Nunes ran to brief the very man he’s investigating. We need someone objective, someone independent, and someone(s) we all can trust.

Add your name — Tell Congress and the White House that we need a special counsel to investigate Trump and Russia.

And there should be no Supreme Court nominations until we get to the bottom of this Russia story.

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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in New York City, and is the cofounder of TimeToResign.com. Bio, .

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  • Mdlsr

    Not only has Nunes disqualified himself with his lapdog antics but Joy Reid has revealed he also has deep connections to Russia through a wine distributor there for his winery. The man has zero credibility.

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  • Zorba

    Ναί, είναι καλό!

  • Demosthenes

    Κρασί και μεζέδες!

  • Zorba

    It’s going to take a whole lot of popcorn. How about some nice cheese and crackers as well? Maybe some charcuterie. And a few bottles of wine. That should keep us going for awhile. ;-)

  • Badgerite

    Certainly hope so. The integrity of our institutions are in peril with this crowd. Beholden to a foreign power that wishes the US and all it stands for ill.

  • Duke Woolworth

    Trump is a make work enterprise for journalists. Also for propagandists.

  • Demosthenes

    I understand, and the GOP’s continued devolution into a pro Russian white ethno nationalist movement, its shocking pro-Russian 2016 platform, and the constant defense of Trump by their members of Congress are a bit frightening of a great rot.

  • Demosthenes

    Fixed. Auto correct is not my friend.

  • Niblet58
  • goulo

    s/complexity/complicity/

  • I’m concerned that Trump’s stooges in the House are going to bring down more than the Republican Party.

  • Digby noted something along those lines a few days ago: http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2017/03/what-did-house-republicans-know-and.html

    “Maybe Republicans have other motives for trying to downplay this growing
    scandal aside from partisan loyalty to a president most of them barely
    know. As I noted here on Salon a few weeks back, the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta were not the only hacks. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, was hacked as well and the information was professionally curated and disseminated by none other than the same Guccifer 2.0. The release of that information targeted close campaigns where the information could be most effectively used against the Democrats.

    The New York Times published a long exposé about this last December showing exactly how the hacks were done, but amid the Trump furor it’s never been followed up. One can imagine why Republican Intelligence Committee members would prefer it never is. After all, the Russians apparently didn’t just interfere on behalf of Donald Trump. They interfered on behalf of House Republicans. Somebody might begin to wonder what they expected in return.”

  • Demosthenes

    Sit back, eat some popcorn, and watch the $hit show.

  • If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say a lot more Republicans are also tied to Russia. Trump is the gasoline on their house of cards.

  • Demosthenes

    Soon as a matter of self-preservation the less idiotic GOP members of Congress will support an independent investigation. At some point soon they’ll realize they need to distance themselves from Don the Con.

  • Demosthenes

    What’s worse than Trump? An angry monkey flinging poo?

  • Demosthenes

    Nice piece, Johnson An independent investigation is definitely needed, not only because Nunes is a compromised Trump hack, but also since Cong. Schiff has revealed today the connection between the Russians and the Trump campaign was more than circumstantial. Sooner or later an independent investigation is essential, and the longer the Trump GOP fights one, the more obvious their complexity.

  • Personally, all this tells me is that the blackmail is working. They’re scared to death of something worse than Trump.

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  • Badgerite

    I don’t see how this helps the Trump Monster. If there was collusion with Russian intelligence or those close to Putin, as the Russian mob is, you would expect people from the trump campaign to be incidentally caught in the web of surveillance on these foreign interests. Trump Monster Jr. himself noted that a rather significant share of their business assets were being helped by Russian money flooding in. As Manafort was paid 10 million annually to promote Putin’s foreign policy goals, the money which flooded into the trump organization in terms of rentals and financing was the start of a means of buying people in the west to promote the Putin agenda. Our Fake President and his family are bought and paid for by the Putin money machine. And that includes some pretty dark elements.
    And those elements tend to be subject to surveillance by those charged with keeping Americans and America safe. So long as it was done pursuant to a warrant from the FISA court, it is legal and it would be the way to find evidence of collusion if it exists. And the FBI has been involved in just such an investigation. President So Called is not well versed on much of anything with respect to law and governance but certainly members of Congress should have some clue.

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