Sunday, April 2, 2017

Nunes' spy-play, more farce than drama, fell apart, along with Trump's story.

Calling Rep. Devin Nunes "the Clown Prince of the Trump-Russia intelligence scandal," The Daily Beast's Rick Wilson pulls aside the curtain on the scheme that now appears to have been concocted by the White House itself.

Meaning that Stephen Bannon, and maybe President Trump himself, set up this whole contrived "discovery" in the National Security surveillance materials of conversations with some Trump Team members (or Trump himself) during the transition.  Trump is trying to fudge the details to validate his claim that Obama ordered the wiretap.

But let's be very clear about this.   We don't yet know what the content is or who the people are.    But we do know this.   It is not from a tap on Trump's phone or any other phone ordered to be bugged by President Obama.   All three intelligence chiefs, who were in charge at the FBI, CIA, and NSA at that time, have said there was no FISA waiver warrant even requested for Trump Tower phones, let alone granted, by the special court.   So we can take that to the bank -- Obama did not tap Trump's lines.

Assuming there is a recording of a Trump person either talking, or being talked about, it would have to come from one of them being inadvertently heard  in conversation with a foreign national person who was the one being legally tapped.  That is very different than Trump's outlandish accusation that the president ordered him surveilled.   So don't let him get away with claiming he has been vindicated by whatever they've come up with.

But, beyond the clown show that is Trump himself, he is being rivaled in the foolish department by Rep. Devin Nunes, who is supposed to be chairing the committee that is investigating collusion.   Instead, he is turning out to be the one colluding with the White House puppeteer.

Rick Wilson's Daily Beast article is titled, "Devin Nunes Is Just the Errand Boy."  Wilson's colorful prose continues:

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"Nunes’s manic flailing left a chain of confused, exhausted reporters trying to parse his daily lies, revisions, walkbacks, and pushbacks.  His use of amateur intel slang was as cringeworthy as it was unconvincing. . . . it became increasingly obvious that Nunes didn’t get this information from the intelligence community, but rather from the Trump White House.

"Over the weekend, the first cracks in Nunes’s ludicrous story emerged. Michael Ellis, a former general counsel for Nunes, now works in the White House General Counsel’s Office on—wait for it—national-security matters. . . .  The New York Times revealed that the bombshell of alleged illicit surveillance of Trump was provided to Nunes by Ellis and Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the current intelligence director for the National Security Council . . . . [who is] disgraced former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s stay-behind agent in the new H.R. McMaster-led NSC. McMaster, a thoroughgoing national-security professional, sought to fire Cohen-Watnick from his earliest days in the position.

"But Cohen-Watnick has powerful friends in the White House. Both Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner weighed in to save Cohen-Watnick’s job. . . . took their appeal to the president himself, who intervened personally on behalf of a relatively unknown 30-year-old aide who was only in the White House because of a man Trump was forced to fire.

"What justified this level of protection and intervention? The pieces seem to click together easily. Bannon needed Cohen-Watnick to stay in place in the National Security Council, with the concomitant level of access to intelligence, in order to support the political pushback on the growing Russia story. The coverup and political pushback Bannon has personally led is fraught with danger, with obstruction of justice on the low end of the risk scale. That Bannon, Cohen-Watnick, and Ellis apparently worked together to loop the hapless Nunes into Bannon’s scheme was too dumb by a mile. In Washington, good conspiracies are as rare as hen’s teeth, and this one is utterly obvious. A good conspiracy needs a patsy, a great one needs an operator. Nunes is the former.

"Nunes made himself the star of the drama without the requisite political or acting skills. . . .  Nunes got this highly classified [information] and leaked it to achieve a political end for the White House. He leaped out of an Uber as if his ass was on fire, met Cohen-Watnick and Ellis in secret at the White House, tattled to the president, then raced to vomit out specific details in a press conference. He lied frequently and badly, to try to keep up the game.

"This ridiculous farce didn’t spring fully formed from Nunes’s brow. He shows—as the past week abundantly demonstrates—few of the skills needed to engage in the big games of either intelligence or of the real cut-and-thrust of the D.C. demimonde. Washington rewards talented liars of both parties and punishes the clumsy ones.

"Nunes is a clumsy liar and it shows. He’s an errand boy sent by grocery clerks with just enough understanding of the game and the stakes to think this is going to work out because their base is always with them. . . .

"It’s not just the White House that’s in crisis. It’s increasingly obvious that the House of Representatives is also in trouble. . . .  Nunes has almost singlehandedly wrecked the credibility of its intelligence committee, raising the specter of either a Senate committee that dominates the investigation or a select committee with sweeping powers that will terrify this White House. . . .

". . . Speaker Ryan is desperately trying to cobble together a governing majority . . . [and] can’t afford more embarrassments, and Nunes may have put him in an untenable position. This is particularly painful for Ryan because just two days ago he vigorously defended Nunes’s performance as head of the House Intelligence Committee and because Nunes claims he informed Ryan what he was up to before going to the president.

"Most organizations and individuals in a political or media crisis share one characteristic: They don’t know they’re in a crisis until the smell of smoke and the sound of sirens is almost deafening. . . .  The Trump White House’s active obstruction of investigations into the Russian influence on the president, his team, and his allies was broken wide open Thursday, the Nunes show came to an ugly end, and the nation got a major break in a crisis that no amount of muttering “this is fine” will rectify."

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Granted, sometimes The Daily Beast gets out a little over its skis, but I don't see anything here that is not entirely plausible, or that even has much chance of being refuted.   It's based on easily checked facts and obvious conclusions drawn from those facts.   I believe this is the way it happened.

Adding even more suspicion, on Saturday the top Democrat on Nunes' intelligence committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, said he has now seen the documents that Nunes was shown by the White House staff;  and he finds nothing in them that could not easily be shared with their entire committee.   This completely negates any reason for Nunes' spy games.   As John Dean said:   every thing the Trump people are doing is what people engaged in cover-up do.


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