Who's under investigation in the current White House? Devin Nunes seems to know

The House intelligence chair appears to have let something slip: Is "one" person in White House under surveillance?

Published March 21, 2017 11:59AM (EDT)

Davin Nunes   (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Davin Nunes (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Donald Trump will never, ever concede anything having to do with Russian hijacking of the 2016 presidential election process. It’s simply not in his personality. Trump only thinks in terms of good guys and bad guys, black and white. The way he sees it, the bad guys — the Democrats, not the Russians — are saying he won because Russia helped him win. Therefore in public Trump believes the exact opposite. Privately, he may well know he’s guilty, but he’s too inept when it comes to politics to know how best to conduct damage control.

And so on Monday during the congressional testimonies of FBI Director James Comey and the NSA director, Mike Rogers, Trump continued to defy the facts by blurting out on Twitter: “The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process.” Trump’s little shell game here is to conflate Election Day voting-machine hacking — for which there’s no evidence and that no one in the intelligence community has suggested occurred — and the hacking of the Democratic Party emails. Trump wants his supporters to believe there was no Russian influence at all, when he responds to part of Monday's hearings about whether voting machines were hacked. Overall, it’s more of the same: deny, deny, deny.

Regardless of Trump’s ungainly flailing on the issue, the facts are the facts. We discovered on Monday that indeed the FBI is investigating collaboration between Russia and the Trump campaign that's long been reported. This was confirmed by Comey in sworn testimony to the House Intelligence Committee despite Trump’s silly and transparent attempts to exploit the ignorance of his most loyal disciples via social media.

Comey told the committee that the bureau’s investigation “includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts." To further define what’s happening, we now have official word that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign and its top staffers for engaging in activity tantamount to treason — providing aid and comfort to a foreign nation seeking to commandeer our election process and therefore our nation's sovereignty.

The fact that President Trump is still “at large” is baffling.

Meanwhile, lost in Monday’s headlines was a huge revelation aired during "Fox News Sunday" when the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, may have inadvertently revealed that a current member of the Trump White House is being investigated and is perhaps the target of surveillance by one or more U.S. intelligence agencies.

Chris Wallace: Is [there] any surveillance of people in Trump world or do we think there was surveillance of other people like [Russia's] Ambassador Kislyak, and that these folks who were talking with him were incidentally swept up in the conversation in the intercepts?

Nunes: Well, if you look at the folks that are working at the White House, uh, today that are involved in the Trump — in the Trump administration, I don’t think there’s any but one there that’s under any type of investigation or surveillance activities at all.

The important phrase here is “but one.” Nunes seemed to be saying that there’s one member of the current Trump White House “today ” who is being investigated and surveilled. Specifying “today” while noting the target of the investigation is “working at the White House now” would seem to indicate that it’s not the obvious name from the rogue's gallery, Michael Flynn, who was fired in February. Absent Flynn, Nunes suggested there’s someone else — now, today.

So the obvious question is, Who is it?

To repeat, it’s probably not Flynn. On Monday Mother Jones’ David Corn reported a bizarre but revelatory nugget of information: Nunes apparently doesn’t know who Roger Stone and Carter Page are. Again, this is confounding given how often their names have appeared in stories about the Russia hacks. Everyone knows Stone and Page — except the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee? Really? If this is true — and especially since they don’t work inside the White House and never have — I suppose we can eliminate both Page and Stone as the being the  “one” Nunes was talking about.

One option could be Wilbur Ross, Trump’s 89-year-old newly confirmed secretary of commerce. We know that Ross was previously the vice chairman and 1.6-percent shareholder of the Bank of Cyprus, a sleazy money-laundering outfit used by Russian oligarchs to funnel untold billions in cash. One of those oligarchs who washed his fortune through the Bank of Cyprus is Dmitry Rybolovlev, Russia's “King of Fertilizer,” who also happened to purchase from Trump a ridiculously expensive property in Florida. This resulted in massive $60 million profit for Trump — in fact, it was the most expensive single home sale in the history of the United States.

To put a long story short: Nunes’ “one” could be Ross or it might not be. It could also be Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, due to his close business relationship with Russia. But no one in the press has implicated Tillerson in the Russia hack. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t keep a close eye on Ross and Tillerson, but we have no choice but to conclude we don't know the identity of the “one,” and should demand it as soon as it’s legally practical to do so.

These attacks on our sovereignty, as well as inevitable ones in the future, amount to matters too urgent for the investigation to be slow walked. The sooner we know the suspect or suspects and that there are measures (secret or public) being taken to prevent another attack, the better. We have to assume that this digital invasion of the United States — this cyberwar by Russia against the republic — is underway right now. It’s happening as we speak, making it a matter of the highest priority and urgency. Our democracy and our system of government depends on this investigation. We can’t stand by waiting for the details to be blocked by Trump operatives, and we can’t wait for another compromised or hijacked election. Now’s the time.


By Bob Cesca

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon. He's also the host of "The Bob Cesca Show" podcast, and a weekly guest on both the "Stephanie Miller Show" and "Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Contribute through LaterPay to support Bob's Salon articles -- all money donated goes directly to the writer.