Congressman Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) is back in the national media spotlight as special council Robert Mueller now turns his attention on the comings and goings of the local career politician.
Flynn’s Turkish Breakfast
As reported by the Valley Voice in May, on January 18, Nunes attended a breakfast meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu at the invitation of disgraced former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who was also present. Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus may also have attended.
Nunes and Flynn were members of the Trump administration’s transition team at the time the meeting took place. Two days after the meeting, Flynn accepted his position as national security adviser to the President. By February 13, he had been fired for failing to disclose his paid work as a Turkish lobbyist.
The meeting took place in a Trump-owned hotel.
At the time the meeting was revealed, Nunes’ office downplayed its significance, saying that Nunes was one of several US dignitaries in attendance, along with several foreign ambassadors. The “working breakfast” was reported by the Turkish media, including a mention of Nunes as a “Republican heavyweight.”
Reporting of the meeting in the Turkish media contradicts Nunes’ claim that several foreign ambassadors were in attendance, making it clear that Turkish Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu was the only foreign official present.
“An aide of the foreign minister didn’t provide additional details on the meeting,” Turkish newspaper The Daily Sabah reported, “but said that Çavuşoğlu was the only foreign leader at the breakfast, and the topics on the US-Turkish agenda were discussed by the attendees.”
Nunes’ attendance at the meeting was largely forgotten as Nunes found himself facing an ethics investigation stemming from a mysterious late-night clandestine meeting at the White House in March. Nunes at first said he had been briefing President Donald Trump about reports that conversations, which included President Trump’s name and those of his associates, has been “incidentally collected” during the period immediately before Trump took office.
That was a lie.
Instead, it was revealed Nunes had obtained the reports during a secret visit to the White House grounds the previous night. The New York Times reported the source of Nunes’ information was two White House staffers, one of whom, Michael Ellis, a lawyer with the White House Counsel’s Office, was previously an attorney for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) that Nunes chairs.
Reason to Wonder
In the wake of Nunes’ odd behavior, the Congressman then canceled a hearing of the HPSCI that would have included testimony from former CIA Director James Brennen, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, regarding possible connections between the Russian government and the Trump campaign during the election.
That led to widespread calls for Nunes to resign from the HPSCI. In April, Nunes removed himself from his role in the investigation; however, he has continued to issue subpoenas and gather evidence in apparent defiance of his promise, raising the ire of Democratic members of the committee.
Nunes is currently facing a House Ethics Committee investigation because of his behavior.
At the time, speculation in the media was that Nunes’ contacts inside the White House may have alerted Nunes that his own name appeared in the reports. When seen in light of Nunes’ association with Flynn and his participation in a meeting with Turkish officials, this alternate possibility is gaining traction.
Flynn Kidnapping Indictment Pending
Last week, the London-based newspaper, The Guardian, reported Flynn is now being investigated for his role in a scheme to kidnap US resident and Turkish national Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric who opposes the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Edroğan. NBC News also reported Mueller has sufficient evidence to prosecute both Flynn and his son for their roles in the scheme.
Flynn, according to reports, would have been paid $15 million for the kidnapping. The disgraced former US Army general previously attempted to seek an immunity deal in exchange for his testimony before Mueller took charge of the investigation, but was rebuffed. Mueller made a similar immunity deal with former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who in October pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI regarding his contacts with Russian agents who were attempting to pass stolen Democratic emails to Trump’s campaign.
Mueller has now turned his attention to a meeting between Flynn and California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Coronado) that allegedly took place on September 20.
During that meeting, Rohrabacher allegedly offered to provide proof Russia was not the source of the hacked Democratic emails WikiLeaks released just ahead of the 2016 presidential election. In exchange, Rohrabacher wanted immunity for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The congressman has a history of championing Russia, including advocating for the repeal of the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law that froze the assets of Russian prosecutors and investigators who took part in the death of Sergi Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer and auditor who was arrested in 2008 and died in custody.
In Vino Veritas
In light of the Flynn-Rohrbacher meeting, and Flynn’s paid work as an agent for both Turkey and Russia, speculation about the nature of the Flynn-Nunes meeting has revived in the national press. Such guesswork is given more credence in the context of Nunes’ evasion of the truth regarding his secret, late-night visit to the White House in March.
It is unclear if Flynn was still working as a Turkish agent when he and Nunes attended the January 18 meeting with the Turkish foreign minister. According to the Wall Street Journal, Flynn met Turkish officials to discuss the kidnapping of the Turkish cleric in mid-December, less than a month before Flynn and Nunes met with Turkish officials.
There is another odd Russian coincidence concerning Nunes, his part ownership of a Napa Valley winery that has sold products in Russia through Luding, a Russian-owned distribution company. Nunes has no controlling interest in the winery, and its managers claim to have made only small shipments to Russia. Trump also has holdings in the wine industry, and his product is sold in Russia.
The winery connection seems innocuous until considered in the light of revelations about meetings between Papadopoulos and Russian agents who were seeking to pass hacked Democratic emails to the Trump campaign. Those meeting were attended by Olga Vinogradova, a woman incorrectly described as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s niece.
Vinogradova is, in fact, a former Russian wine distributor. Papadopoulos was arrested in July and has pleaded guilty to lying to officials from the FBI.
What take if any Nunes and his staff have on these circumstances remains unknown, as the congressman steadfastly refuses to discuss his behavior in these matters with local press.