Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) is catching heavy fire from both sides of the political aisle following the release of the so-called Nunes Memo earlier this month.
Harsh words, as well as a call for his removal as chairman of the House Intel Committee by Democrats, aren’t the only things causing trouble for the local congressman. His website appears to have been hacked by Russians, and disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn–with whom Nunes and the Turkish foreign minister met while Nunes was a member of Donald Trump’s transition team–pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is now cooperating with its investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russian agents.
The Flynn revelation comes as Nunes ramps up attacks against the FBI and the Department of Justice. Nunes also says he is now targeting the State Department under President Barack Obama.
Pelosi Wants Nunes Out
The newly announced intent to investigate the State Department comes as Nunes is apparently emboldened by the the release of a four-page memorandum–written by Nunes–which he claims shows the FBI and Department of Justice were motivated by pressure from Democrats to investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents.
The ranking Democrat on the House Intel Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California), however, says the memo released earlier this month is not the same as the document the Committee approved.
“This evening the Committee Minority discovered that the classified memorandum shared by the Committee Majority with the White House is not, in fact, the same document that Members of the House of Representatives have been reviewing since January 18, 2018,” Schiff wrote, “and that the Committee Majority voted on Monday to release to the public, over objections from the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
The revelation prompted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) to call on Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) to remove Nunes from leadership of the House Intel Committee.
“Chairman Nunes’ deliberately dishonest actions make him unfit to serve as as Chairman, and he must be immediately removed from his position,” Pelosi wrote.
FBI Condemns Memo
Regardless of which version of the memo was released, the FBI says the information it contains is both incomplete and false.
“As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,” an FBI press release stated.
Nunes claims his memo establishes a conspiracy between Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and Russian agents, and he says Democrats are now trying to hide that information.
“The truth is that they (Democrats) are covering up that Hillary Clinton colluded with the Russians to get dirt on Trump to feed it to the FBI to open up an investigation into the other (Trump) campaign,” Nunes told Fox News.
While the Clinton campaign did hire Fusion GPS to continue its work on the Steele Dossier, the work was originally funded by Paul Singer, CEO of the Elliot Management Company and publisher of the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative publication.
Nunes took $5,400 in donations from Singer in 2015.
Second Ethics Probe
Nunes has been under intense national scrutiny since a late-night secret meeting at the White House in March of last year, when Nunes may have illegally shared classified information with the Trump administration regarding investigations into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russian agents to influence the 2016 presidential elections.
Or the information may have flowed in the other direction.
Following his interactions with the White House, Nunes then lied to the press about the nature of the meetings. It was ultimately revealed he was being fed information by White House staffers–which he then shared with Trump–and that behavior led to a House Ethics Committee investigation of Nunes.
Now, Nunes is facing another ethics complaint, this one alleging Nunes or members of his staff leaked sensitive information about Fusion GPS, the company that prepared the Steele Dossier, as retaliation for its investigation of Trump’s Russian connections.
The complaint was filed by the Campaign for Accountability, a nonpartisan watchdog group focused on exposing public misconduct and malfeasance.
“Unfortunately, prior to the release of the full transcripts, it appears Committee Chairman Nunes and/or members of his staff selectively leaked information provided to the Committee in confidence, likely to retaliate against Fusion for its role in investigating President Trump’s and the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and to deter the firm from any engaging in any continued investigation.”
With the Nunes Memo finally in public hands, angry responses to it are coming from all sides, including Nunes’ own party. GOP strategist Steve Schmidt has labeled Nunes a “banana Republican” who is serving “…the interests of the intelligence services of of the Russian Federation. …”
“What we’re seeing now, and I don’t know what Devin Nunes’ motivation is, I do believe he has a record of acting in bad faith,” Schmidt told MSNBC.
Former CIA Director John Brennan echos Pelosi’s condemnation of Nunes and his partisan approach to the Trump-Russia investigations. Brennan says Nunes has not been completely honest in his disclosures, cherry-picking facts and omitting others.
“It’s just appalling and clearly underscores how partisan Mr. Nunes has been,” Brennan told NBC. “He has abused the chairmanship of (the Intelligence Committee).”
Perhaps the most cutting criticism of Nunes odd behavior comes from Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and intelligence contractor who released classified information from the NSA about surveillance of US citizens in 2013. Snowden says he used more discretion than Nunes has when he decided to blow the whistle.
“I required the journalists who broke the 2013 domestic spying stories–as a condition of access–to talk with (government officials) in advance of publication as an extraordinary precaution to prevent any risk of harm,” Snowden wrote last week. “Turns out our standard of care was higher than the actual Intel committee.”
Nunes Website Hacked
As if that weren’t embarrassment enough, it turns out that Nunes’ website was hacked by Russians in May of 2017, and the infected code remains on devinnunes.com.
According to Eric JN Ellason, owner of web design firm SlickRockWeb, Nunes’ site was infected with code intended to boost the search engine returns for Russian websites. He alerted Nunes’ office to the hack, and he says Nunes office told him it removed the offending code.
However, analysts for Bleeping Computer, a website focused on security that originally reported the breech, says the hacked code remains in place on Nunes site. They also point out it is unclear what, if any, sensitive information was stored on Nunes’ site and whether hackers were able to access it.
“Only Rep. Nunes’ office can say how severe this security breach was,” Ellason told Bleeping Computer. “Because Rep. Nunes is chairman of the House Intelligence committee, he would be considered a high-value target.”
Adding insult to injury on the Internet front, while the Nunes memo was playing large in national headlines, an unknown prankster bought the URL nunesmemo.com then redirected traffic to Nunes’ primary opponent in the upcoming midterm election, Andrew Janz.
The Janz campaign says it had no involvement in the redirection.
Flynn Rolling Over
In what may eventually prove a more serious development for Nunes, former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is now cooperating with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s probe into possible Trump-Russia connections.
Flynn’s fall from grace, which came just weeks after Trump took office, resulted from his failure to disclose his work as a foreign agent. Specifically, Flynn worked to advance the interests of Turkey, and may have discussed a plot to kidnap a Turkish national living on US soil in exchange for a $15 million payment.
Flynn and Nunes met with the Turkish foreign minister at a meeting held at a Trump hotel on January 18, while Nunes was a member of the executive committee of the Trump transition team. Revelation of that meeting led to speculation in the press that Nunes may have seen his own name unmasked in intelligence reports.
Nunes’ office has previously denied any wrongdoing on his part.
Meanwhile, the Nunes memo could end up with obstruction of justice charges for the Tulare congressman, according to three experts on constitutional law.
An op/ed piece published last week by the New York Times–coauthored by the president of the American Constitution Society, a Harvard Law School professor of constitutional law and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute–says Nunes has an “obstruction liability” if he or his staff worked with the White House on the text of the Nunes memo.
When questioned by Rep. Mike Quiqley (D-Illinois), Nunes refused to say if his staff had worked with the White House to develop the Nunes memo. Nunes denied working with the White House directly.
The trio of experts say the memo is an effort by Republicans to discredit Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the man who is overseeing Mueller’s investigatory work. Should the memo become the basis for firing Rosenstein, Nunes could be guilty of conspiracy to obstruct of the investigation, they said.
When asked if the Nunes memo made it more likely he would fire Rosenstein, Trump responded: “You figure that one out.”