On Monday evening, Donald Trump made another tweet complaining about “Leakin’ James Comey.” But, according to Andrew McCabe, there was a genuine leaker who concerned everyone at the Justice Department—someone he was sure related everything going on in the Russia investigation back to the White House as soon as it happened. But that person wasn’t in the DOJ or FBI. He was in Congress. Part of McCabe’s as acting FBI director responsibility was to brief the “Gang of Eight,” the group that included Congressional leadership and the heads of the intelligence committees in the House and Senate. Among that group was then-House Intelligence chairman Devin Nunes. When Nunes learned something, McCabe regarded it as a “less than zero” chance the information would be handed to Trump.
But there’s something even more interesting in McCabe’s briefings to the Gang of Eight than Nunes hurrying off to get a fresh head pat from Trump. As McCabe told NBC News‘ Savannah Guthrie in a Tuesday interview, he briefed the congressional delegation not just on the status of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia, but on the investigation he had opened into looking at Trump as a Russian operative.
Congressional Republicans — including Mitch McConnell, Devin Nunes, Richard Burr and Paul Ryan — knew that a counterintelligence operation had been opened to determine whether or not Donald Trump was an agent of the Russian government working against the interests of the United States. And none of them objected.
As shocked—shocked!—a Republicans are now pretending to be about the considerations that were going on inside the Justice Department, he truth is that they knew the FBI suspected Trump of acting for a foreign power in early 2017. And none of them tried to stop it. In fact, since Nunes was acting as an open conduit to the White House, it’s all but certain that Trump knew about the counterintelligence operation within days of it being launched.
This briefing apparently took place in the days immediately following the dismissal of James Comey and before the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. It may have been during the critical eight day period, that included Trump making angry calls to McCabe, an Oval Office meeting in which Trump shared classified information with Russian officials, Trump talking openly about his demand that federal officials take an oath of personal loyalty to him, and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein’s offer to wear a wire in meeting with Trump. Or it may have come somewhere after the appointment of Mueller.
Again, the leadership of the Republican Party was told that Trump was being investigated not just as a Russian conspirator, but as a Russian agent. They did not complain. But at least one of them may have panicked.
Throughout his time as head of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes showed a remarkable willingness to burn FBI sources and destroy valuable tradecraft. And the news that he was sneaking news back to Trump from meetings with the FBI seems to fit with the way in which Nunes did astoundingly crazy things in this period.
Comey was fired on March 9, 2017. Mueller was appointed on March 17. Five days after that, Devin Nunes jumped from a Uber car when it paused at a street corner, sneaked around the White House grounds, and secretly slipped inside to meet with — that’s still unclear. .
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee was on his way to an event in Washington late Tuesday when the evening’s plans abruptly changed. After taking a brief phone call, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) swapped cars and slipped away from his staff, congressional officials said. He appears to have used that unaccounted-for stretch of time to review classified intelligence files brought to his attention by sources he has said he will not name.
At the very least, it seems that he met with a flunky of Michael Flynn and a White House attorney. It’s known that Nunes was shown classified information during his visit, but did he also pass some information along? Was he there to tell them that Donald Trump was under suspicion as a Russian agent? Did he share with them any evidence that McCabe related to the Gang of Eight?
Shortly after this, Nunes conducted a day of frantic back and forth visits with Paul Ryan, and press conferences in which he accused the Obama administration of “unmasking” Americans connected to intelligence operations. Those accusations, and information that Nunes spilled, eventually collapsed to such a degree that Nunes was left facing the House Ethics Committee for his actions.
It’s clear that even as Andrew McCabe was opening an investigation into Trump, and following the rules by reporting his actions to Congress, Devin Nunes was breaking the rules by carrying classified information in both directions to obstruct the investigation into Trump. It now seems that Nunes wasn’t just blocking that investigation in the House, but possibly obstructing the FBI by informing Trump of actions being taken in the DOJ.
The evidence against Nunes would seem to call for further investigation. An investigation that is aimed not at a ruling by the Ethics Committee, but a federal court.