Friday, March 31, 2017

Allegations that Nunes lies about his sources in an attempt to defend Trump against congressional investigation he is conducting

A pair of White House officials helped provide Representative Devin Nunes of California, a Republican and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, with the intelligence reports that showed that President Trump and his associates were incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies.

The revelation on Thursday that White House officials disclosed the reports, which Mr. Nunes then discussed with Mr. Trump, is likely to fuel criticism that the intelligence chairman has been too eager to do the bidding of the Trump administration while his committee is supposed to be conducting an independent investigation of Russia’s meddling in the presidential election.

It is the latest twist of a bizarre Washington drama that began after dark on March 21, when Mr. Nunes got a call from a person he has described only as a source. The call came as he was riding across town in an Uber car, and he quickly diverted to the White House. The next day, Mr. Nunes gave a hastily arranged news conference before going to brief Mr. Trump on what he had learned the night before from — as it turns out — White House officials.

The chain of events — and who helped provide the intelligence to Mr. Nunes — was detailed to The New York Times by four American officials.

Since disclosing the existence of the intelligence reports, Mr. Nunes has refused to identify his sources, saying he needed to protect them so others would feel safe going to the committee with sensitive information. In his public comments, he has described his sources as whistle-blowers trying to expose wrongdoing at great risk to themselves.

That does not appear to be the case. Several current American officials identified the White House officials as Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a lawyer who works on national security issues at the White House Counsel’s Office and was previously counsel to Mr. Nunes’s committee. Though neither has been accused of breaking any laws, they do appear to have sought to use intelligence to advance the political goals of the Trump administration.

Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, refused to confirm or deny at his daily briefing that Mr. Ellis and Mr. Cohen-Watnick were Mr. Nunes’s sources. The administration’s concern was the substance of the intelligence reports, not how they ended up in Mr. Nunes’s hands, Mr. Spicer said.
The “obsession with who talked to whom, and when, is not the answer,” Mr. Spicer said. “It should be the substance.”

Jack Langer, a spokesman for Mr. Nunes, said in a statement, “As he’s stated many times, Chairman Nunes will not confirm or deny speculation about his source’s identity, and he will not respond to speculation from anonymous sources.”

Mr. Cohen-Watnick, 30, is a former Defense Intelligence Agency official who served on the Trump transition team and was originally brought to the White House by Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser.

He was nearly pushed out of his job this month by Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who replaced Mr. Flynn as national security adviser, but survived after the intervention of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist.

The officials who detailed the newly disclosed White House role said that this month, shortly after Mr. Trump claimed on Twitter that he was wiretapped during the campaign on the orders of President Barack Obama, Mr. Cohen-Watnick began reviewing highly classified reports detailing the intercepted communications of foreign officials.

There were conflicting accounts of what prompted Mr. Cohen-Watnick to dig into the intelligence. One official with direct knowledge of the events said Mr. Cohen-Watnick began combing through intelligence reports this month in an effort to find evidence that would justify Mr. Trump’s Twitter posts about wiretapping.

But another person who was briefed on the events said Mr. Cohen-Watnick came upon the information as he was reviewing how widely intelligence reports on intercepts were shared within the American spy agencies. He then alerted the N.S.C. general counsel, but the official said Mr. Cohen-Watnick was not the person who showed the reports to Mr. Nunes.

That person and a third official said it was then Mr. Ellis who allowed Mr. Nunes to view the material. [...]


  1. It's no secret in Washington that that there are no secrets in Washington. This is classic chicken and egg. Did Mr. Obama investigate non-citizens and inadvertently spied on citizens, or did he spy on non-citizens as a backdoor to investigate citizens. Hopefully the declassified version of Mr. Nunes's final report will clarify this.

  2. For a different view, see
    To sum up, Team Obama was spying broadly on the incoming administration. Mr. Schiff’s howls about Mr. Nunes’s methods are bluster; the Republican was doing his job, and well…Meantime, few things match the ludicrous furor over Mr. Nunes’s source-meeting place, or his visit to brief Mr. Trump. Congress members must view most classified material on executive-branch grounds, since that’s the only way to access it physically. Having discovered the former administration’s surveillance of Trump officials, Mr. Nunes had a duty to let the White House know. (Imagine if he’d sat on it.) He could hardly let Democrats know first, since their only interest these days is in leaking and twisting stories. And the reason he held press briefings before and after his meeting with Mr. Trump was to be transparent about his purpose… He might voice some concern that a prior White House was monitoring its political opponents. He might ask whether Obama officials had been “reverse monitoring”—tracking foreign officials solely so they could spy on the Trump team.

  3. Why didn't Nunes turn this information over to congressional intelligence committees? And why is he still resisting to do so.

    Anyway, here is what others who have seen the intellegience have to say:

    Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) says he has now seen the same intelligence that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) was given last week on the grounds of the White House ― which Nunes then presented to the White House — and Schiff called for the information to be turned over to the congressional intelligence committees.

    Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, declined to reveal any details of the information. But it wasn’t so overwhelming or sensitive that it should change the rules of procedure, he indicated. Schiff called for it to be given to the House and Senate intelligence committees to evaluate. He said he doesn’t understand why the information was provided only to Nunes, the chairman of the House committee.

    Nunes claimed the documents showed that Donald Trump and others may have been incidentally named in surveillance by U.S. intelligence agencies that were engaged in other investigations. The information appeared to confirm a link to intelligence monitoring but apparently fell short of confirming Trump’s claim that his phones at Trump Tower in Manhattan were “wiretapped” by President Barack Obama toward the end of the 2016 campaign.

  4. Most Americans Want Independent Russia Probe.

  5. Where is our dear blogger?


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