What's really going on with Nunes?
It gets weirder ever day. Here's the latest from David Corn at Mother Jones:
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the now-famous (for the wrong reasons) chair of the House intelligence committee, held another weird press conference Friday morning. It wasn't as much of a doozy as his double feature on Wednesday, when he claimed he had been given information indicating that members of Donald Trump's presidential transition team, including possibly Trump himself, had been picked up during lawfully authorized intelligence surveillance of other targets and that their identities had been disclosed in intelligence reporting based on these intercepts. That triggered a hullabaloo—had Nunes revealed classified information? was he pulling this stunt to help Trump?—and his actions prompted Democrats to question Nunes' ability to lead an effective probe of Moscow's meddling in the 2016 campaign and the interactions between the Trump camp and Russia. On Thursday, in a private meeting of the committee, Nunes apologized to his fellow committee members for his bizarre pressers but did not fully explain his move or share the information he had. This was part of an already bad week for Nunes.
Nunes' own account bolsters the argument that he is not a credible manager of the probe of the Trump-Russia scandal.
On Friday, Nunes didn't make anything better. In fact, with a series of elliptical statements, he suggested that on Wednesday he had gone off half-cocked—which is not SOP for an intelligence committee chairman in charge of a highly sensitive and politically charged investigation. Asked repeatedly about the information that was the basis for his charge that Trump and his associates were inappropriately "unmasked" in classified intelligence reports based on legally authorized top-secret surveillance of foreign targets, Nunes said he did not have that material in hand. He noted he had "viewed" the documents this week. And he said that he hoped to receive copies of the material "from the NSA and other agencies" on Friday, over the weekend, or early next week. He also indicated that there were more documents related to this matter than he had seen. Nunes added that he had been aware of the "unmasking" prior to reviewing the documents he saw.
Put this all together, and the scenario looks like this: Someone told Nunes that the identities of Trump and/or Trump associates appeared in intelligence reports based on surveillance conducted during the transition. Nunes then reviewed some of these documents this week. And on Wednesday afternoon (two days after a holding a day-long hearing with FBI chief James Comey and NSA head Mike Rogers), Nunes—without telling his fellow committee members and without conducting any thorough examination of the matter—went public. That is, he went rogue. And he rushed to the White House to share his half-baked information with Trump. (Afterward, Trump declared that he was now "somewhat" vindicated for claiming Obama had illegally wiretapped him in Trump Tower during the election—despite the fact that Nunes' statements were not related to Trump's fact-free charge.)
I was on the Majority Report with Sam Seder earlier and Sam had a very interesting alternative theory about what actually happened. He points out that after the hearing the other day the committee held a closed door meeting and for the first time Comey revealed some of what he had. Sam's hypothesis is that Nunes, as a member of the transition team whomay not feel entirely secure from surveillance himself had to figure out a way to get Comey's information to the White House and needed to find reason to go up there personally to deliver it. So he came up with this cockamamie scheme, which would explain why he didn't share what he had with the committee --- he didn't have anything.
It's an interesting theory. This Nunes gambit was very strange and certainly gives rise to suspicions that he was doing something other than what he said he was doing. The fact that suddenly three former Trump associates have agreed to testify before the committee makes you wonder why they might feel more confident in their stories all of a sudden.
Nunes should have recused himself from this committee. He was a member of the transition and for all we know he's implicated himself. He's not smart enough to outwit the counterintelligence agents, though. He probably shouldn't try ...