The Nunes presser unveils the Washington divide
Representative Devin Nunes, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, publicly announced that he had read several intelligence documents that unmask several people related to the Trump transition team. After briefing Speaker Ryan, he went to the White House to brief the president.
Heretofore, he had appeared in public with ranking member Adam Schiff to brief the press on committee hearings. Yet yesterday, he chose to tell Schiff about the information after speaking to the others. This prompted Schiff to question whether there is a bipartisan effort to uncover any link between Russia and the Trump team. Schiff continues to argue that there is some link between Trump associates and the Russians. He complains that the integrity of the effort could be jeopardized.
The AP published an article today claiming that former campaign manager Paul Manafort had helped a Putin associate, billionaire Oleg Deripaska, a decade ago. In this article, they claim that he tried to aid the Russian government. Manafort flatly denies that his work was for political purposes. Further, they indicate that this was secretly done through a third-party investment.
At the same time, Representative Jason Chaffetz, chair of the Oversight Committee, has requested further information regarding Lt. General Michael Flynn – this coming after pressure from the Democrats and ranking member Elijah Cummings. Clearly, Democrats see the Russian link as a way to delegitimize Trump's election.
Nunes stated that an individual, not the agencies, came forward to give him the information. He indicated that the NSA and CIA had responded to his request for additional information. He indicated that the FBI has not been as forthcoming. This could be to protect an ongoing investigation or due to inter-agency rivalries.
Several weeks ago, the president tweeted about his concern that he had been "wiretapped" at Trump Tower. Whereas both Nunes and Schiff agree that no such evidence exists, this information indicates that there was more widespread surveillance than had been admitted previously. Although Nunes did not indicate which names were unmasked, he did indicate that this surveillance had nothing to do with Russia. Further, he indicated that it was subsequent to a FISA warrant.
Given the party divide, this might be the beginning of less cooperation on the Intelligence Committee. This might be helpful information to gain some votes for the House American Health Care Act. The vote is in question as of this writing. This information demonstrates that Trump is not "just crazy," though his statement about "Obama ordering the tap" may be over the line.
At 61 days, there is no slowdown in the activity surrounding Trump. He and his administration manage to keep us all entertained. The outsider has certainly come to Washington to break up the establishment. We will see where this thread goes.