About Rep. Devin Nunes’ visit to the White House grounds

posted at 5:21 pm on March 27, 2017 by John Sexton

The Daily Beast published a story Friday claiming Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, had “vanished” last Tuesday night. The story raised questions about where Nunes might have gone in the hours before his press conference Wednesday where he announced there had been incidental collection of information on Trump’s transition team.  The mystery of where Rep. Numes went played into a story Democrats were eager to tell about his source. From the Daily Beast:

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have suggested that Nunes’ source was the White House, looking to distract from FBI Director James Comey’s revelation Monday that the bureau is investigating whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.

“Where did [Nunes] receive this information? From our knowledge, no one on his staff and no other members were a part of this,” Rep. Eric Swalwell said on MSNBC on Thursday. “So that means it had to be outside of the Capitol. So, did he go to another agency? And does that mean that the White House was a part of this? It sure seems like the White House after what came out on Monday was scrambling to do anything it could to put another smoke bomb into this investigation.”

That story line got a partial boost earlier today when CNN reported that Rep. Nunes had indeed visited the White House grounds Tuesday night. Here’s how the Washington Post is treating this revelation today:

We still don’t know who gave Nunes the surveillance information or its significance to the committee’s broader investigation into Russia’s meddling. Nunes publicly said if the president’s name did show up in surveillance, it had nothing to do with Russia. He also told CNN that the president didn’t even know Nunes was at the White House Tuesday.

But here’s what anyone trying to follow the twists and turns of this Trump-Russia-wiretapping story is left with: A top Republican congressman and Trump ally was at the White House the day before he released information that appeared to somewhat defend the president on his defenseless wiretapping claims.

It sounds bad but almost everything in these two paragraphs is wrong or misleading. We’ll come back to it in a moment but first, here’s what Rep. Nunes told Eli Lake today about his Tuesday meeting:

In an interview Monday, Nunes told me that he ended up meeting his source on the White House grounds because it was the most convenient secure location with a computer connected to the system that included the reports, which are only distributed within the executive branch. “We don’t have networked access to these kinds of reports in Congress,” Nunes said. He added that his source was not a White House staffer and was an intelligence official.

CNN adds that the meeting on the White House grounds was not at the White House but at “the National Security Council offices of the Eisenhower building.” So the story here is that Rep. Nunes met with an intelligence official at a secure location in the Eisenhower building because the information could not be viewed at the Capitol. Now take a look again at how the Post is framing this. We’ll go through this line by line:

We still don’t know who gave Nunes the surveillance information or its significance to the committee’s broader investigation into Russia’s meddling.

We don’t know the identity but we know the source was an intelligence official, not a White House offical as Democrats are claiming. Also, Rep. Nunes said last Wednesday and again today that this has no connection to Russia or the investigation into Russia. So we do know it’s significance to the Russia investigation: It has none.

Nunes publicly said if the president’s name did show up in surveillance, it had nothing to do with Russia.

Here’s what Nunes actually said last week: “I want to be clear, none of this surveillance was related to Russia, or the investigation of Russian activities or of the Trump team.” Why is the Post pretending this is unclear?

He also told CNN that the president didn’t even know Nunes was at the White House Tuesday.

Nunes wasn’t at the White House Tuesday. He was at the Eisenhower building because that’s where the information could be viewed securely.

But here’s what anyone trying to follow the twists and turns of this Trump-Russia-wiretapping story is left with: A top Republican congressman and Trump ally was at the White House the day before he released information that appeared to somewhat defend the president on his defenseless wiretapping claims.

Again, he wasn’t at the White House, he was at the Eisenhower building which is on the White House grounds. Also, the information didn’t “somewhat defend the president.” Nunes was clear this was legal, incidental collection. He never claimed this backed up Trump’s tweets about being “wiretapped” by President Obama. On the contrary, he has said there is no evidence of that.

Here’s the real bottom line. Democrats are once again trying to promote a conspiracy theory. This time it’s the suggestion the White House gave the information to Nunes which he gave back to them the next day. That would certainly be a compelling story if it were true but there’s no evidence that it is.

Rep. Nunes did have a source for his claims, but his source was someone from the intelligence community. The information he received has no connection to Russia or to the investigation he is leading on that topic. And Eli Lake reports the information will be available to other committee members as soon as this week. If Democrats want to float another version of events, they should try backing it up with some facts.


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