Duane Patterson’s Greenroom transcript of Nunes’s chat with Hugh Hewitt was accurate, but Nunes’s claims were not. Which seemed likely at the time: If the GOP was sitting on a scoop about Eric Holder’s deputies bugging conversations inside Congress, it probably would have been announced in a more prominent way than as an aside during an interview with a member who’s not part of leadership.
Here’s what he said:
HH: …I don’t trust the Department of Justice on this. Do you, Congressman Nunes?
DN: No, I absolutely do not, especially after this wiretapping incident, essentially, of the House of Representative. I don’t think people are focusing on the right thing when they talk about going after the AP reporters. The big problem that I see is that they actually tapped right where I’m sitting right now, the Cloak Room.
HH: Wait a minute, this is news to me.
DN: The Cloak Room in the House of Representatives.
HH: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
DN: So when they went after the AP reporters, right? Went after all of their phone records, they went after the phone records, including right up here in the House Gallery, right up from where I’m sitting right now. So you have a real separation of powers issue that did this really rise to the level that you would have to get phone records that would, that would most likely include members of Congress, because as you know…
DN: …members of Congress talk to the press all the time.
HH: I did not know that, and that is a stunner.
The DOJ admitted to obtaining call records from a phone used by the AP in the House press gallery, which is … different from tapping a room used by congressmen to talk shop. How Nunes confused the two, I have no idea. He recovers a bit, sort of, at the end of the excerpt when he pivots back to phone records, but I don’t know how he got from point A to point B in that conversation. His office is now “clarifying” what he said:
What Rep. Nunes meant by “tapped” was that the DOJ seized the phone records, as has been widely reported. There was a little confusion between him and the host during the conversation: He did not mean to refer to phone records of the cloakroom itself, but of the Capitol. This refers to the phone records for the AP from the House press gallery, which the DOJ admitted to looking at. He was explaining that if those phone records were seized, they would reveal a lot of conversations between the press and members of Congress, since reporters often speak to Members from the press gallery phones. The notion of the DOJ looking at phone records from the Capitol of conversations between Members of Congress and reporters is something that concerns Rep. Nunes, bringing up issues related to the separation of powers.
So he was sloppy in confusing obtaining phone records for wiretapping, and what he meant by the cloakroom is that, I guess, if a congressman in the room called up to an AP reporter in the press gallery, the DOJ would know about it from the gallery phone’s records. That’s a legit separation of powers question, but hyping a claim into something explosive and then having to walk it back risks creating an impression that reaction to what the actually DOJ did is overblown. It isn’t. Careful, please.