(Getty/Win McNamee)

Devin Nunes tries to rescue Trump — and may have made the deepening scandal worse

House Intelligence chair rushes to White House with supposed bombshell — that definitely doesn't help Team Trump


Heather Digby Parton
March 23, 2017 4:05PM (UTC)

One of the more unusual characteristics of President Donald Trump and his closest associates is the extent to which they seem to have psychic powers. Recall that on Aug. 21 conservative operative and longtime Trump associate Roger Stone tweeted gleefully, "it will soon be Podesta's time in the barrel," referring to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Lo and behold, on Oct. 7 WikiLeaks released its trove of Podesta's emails.

It wasn't long after this that Trump's close ally, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, exhibited a similar eerie prescience. Days before FBI Director James Comey announced that his agency would examine Clinton emails found on a computer used by Anthony Weiner, Giuliani told Fox News Trump has “got a surprise or two that you’re going to hear about in the next few days. . . . I’m talking about some pretty big surprises. . . . . We got a couple of things up our sleeve that should turn this around." Was he ever right.

Then on March 15, in the wake of the president's manic early-morning tweetstorm accusing former President Barack Obama of arranging for him to be wiretapped, Trump demonstrated his own awe-inspiring clairvoyance. Trump told Fox News' Tucker Carlson that despite all the denials from every institution and person in a position to know, "You’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks."

Wouldn't you know it? On Wednesday House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., was shown some documents by a "source" that had him so up in arms he couldn't even take the time to alert the other committee members before he ran to the White House to show the president. When asked if he felt vindicated by this alleged bombshell, Trump replied:

I somewhat do. I must tell you I somewhat do. I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found, I somewhat do.

It's amazing how Trump and his people are able to see into the future this way, isn't it?

Of course, Roger Stone is now in the crosshairs of a serious counterintelligence investigation and undoubtedly regrets crowing about what he knew. Giuliani was unceremoniously put out to pasture after it was rumored he helped rogue elements of law enforcement with an anti-Clinton crusade on behalf of Donald Trump. And nobody on the planet really believes that Nunes' bizarre performance "somewhat" vindicated Trump — or vindicated him at all. Indeed, all Nunes' stunt did was open the door to a bunch of new questions that Trump may very well regret being asked.

In a nutshell, Nunes claimed that this unnamed source showed him some intelligence intercept from the transition period before Trump took office that indicated members of the Trump team were under surveillance. Inexplicably, the congressman thought it was appropriate to immediately inform the the subject of the investigation and tell the world that he did it. Under questioning in the two (!) press conferences that Nunes held on the matter, it became clear that he was talking about routine legal surveillance of foreign actors that caught some conversations with Trump transition officials. His only complaint was that reports of these intercepts were disseminated inside the government without properly masking the Trump officials' identities, a process known as "minimization." (The inadequacy of this protection has been a gripe of civil libertarians for years — something the GOP dismissed as overwrought until it happened to Republicans.)

Since even Nunes admits that this surveillance was routine, why this revelation would "vindicate" Trump's accusation that Obama wiretapped him remains a mystery. But it certainly didn't stop   Trump defenders from sending up celebratory fireworks.


Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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