The coverup is always worse than the crime. Except when the crime is, say, TREASON. In the case where your presidential campaign conspired with a hostile government to subvert a U.S. election, it's actually the coverup and the crime.

So, what crimes might have been committed in the House Intelligence Committee's Clusterfuck Investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election? Let's Clusterfucksplore!

Priebus Ties Up White House Phone Line With Most Appropriate Calls Ever!

Remember way back in February when White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus tried to partial-birth-abortion this Russia story and Comey was like, "Sorry, Pal. May I suggest a hammer and sickle theme for the nursery?"

Insisting that news reports of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials were the vilest smear, Priebus reached out to FBI director James Comey, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr, and House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes. Comey told Priebus to piss right off. Burr agreed to have media conversations on background to say there was nothing at all to this Russia stuff, Comrade!

Nunes, however, was dumb enough to get right out in front with his denials.

"They’ve looked, and it’s all a dead trail that leads me to believe no contact, not even pizza-delivery-guy contact,” Nunes said, appearing to rule out even unwitting contact between Trump officials and Russian agents. Investigators, Nunes said, “don’t even have a lead.”

Exactly! Except the pizza delivery guy brings $10 million a month and puts it in Paul Manafort's offshore account. To-may-to, to-mah-to.

At the time, Priebus's calls appeared to be a simple breach of the firewall between the White House and investigators in the FBI and Congress. That is to say, it was wildly inappropriate, but not illegal per se. Now that we know there was an active FBI inquiry into coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, Priebus's contacts with investigators look more like obstruction of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Who doesn't think Priebus is the first one Team Trump feeds to the sharks? He's the character in every horror movie that says, "Guys! You know there's no such thing as...," right before he is devoured by the monster.

And the monster is Sergei Kislyak! Run away!

House Intel Committee Leaks Like a Russian Pee Hooker

In the month since Priebus's gabfest, we've found that everyone in Trumpland was making sexxytimez with Kislyak, Putin, and any other Russian hotties they could pick up. All 17 intelligence agencies are in agreement that the Russian government attempted to influence the outcome of our election. And this week, Comey and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers publicly confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee that there is an ongoing investigation of the Trump campaign's contacts with the Russian government. Time for House members to start taking this investigation seriously!


In a transparent attempt to change the subject from the Russians to absolutely anything else, Nunes and noted Benghazi leaker Trey Gowdy tried mightily to shift the topic to the potentially illegal disclosure of the identities of people caught up incidentally in other wiretaps. Nunes is demanding that the FBI, CIA and NSA give the committee a list of names which were unmasked and distributed inappropriately within the government.

Nunes said Wednesday he was concerned about the unmasking in the information he viewed. But after speaking with Nunes, Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat Adam B. Schiff (Calif.) said that only one name in the report that Nunes viewed was “unmasked” — and that name had nothing to do with the Trump team.

Nunes told reporters that the identities of the individuals in the report were “very clear to me,” and that they were members of the Trump team.

That has sparked charges that if anybody is revealing more than they should, it is Nunes — for potentially telling the public that hidden names in surveillance reports referred to the president and his advisers, something that is likely classified information.

Nunes said the information was classified, but he argued that disclosing the existence of the report and the nature of it did not reveal any classified information.

So ... Nunes admits that the surveillance was legal and remains classified, acknowledges that the identities of persons incidentally surveilled were not unmasked, but then complains to reporters that he could totally tell they were Trump operatives? Hey, Fresno! Was your village perhaps missing its idiot? You can come pick him up at the Rayburn House Office Building.

Nunes Gets Secret Intel, But He's Not Sharing It With the Intel Committee, Because DUH

On Wednesday, Nunes decided that he'd heard SOMEWHERE that the Trump Team was totally in the clear, since their appearance on "wire tapps" was totally incidental and not related to the Russia investigation. Was this an attempt to bolster Donald Trump's nonsense Tweets about Obama "wire tapps" of his phones? Who the hell knows! You'd have better luck psychoanalyzing a hamster than trying to read Nunes's scrambled egg brains. What we do know is that Nunes met for a quick confab with Paul Ryan, then hightailed it over to the White House to give the President the good news in person.

Let's just pause for a moment to acknowledge that NUNES SHARED THE CLASSIFIED FINDINGS OF AN INTELLIGENCE INVESTIGATION WITH THE TARGET OF THAT INVESTIGATION AND THE PRESS. That sure looks like leaking classified information and obstruction of justice.

We don't know what exactly Nunes leaked shared with Trump and his retinue. And Nunes's story changed once the mean old Democrats and their fake news pals started pointing out that he'd been a bad, bad boy. So, let's skip ahead for a moment to Congressman Mensa's press briefing on the White House driveway after his heart-to-heart with the President.

Nunes claimed to have received "reports" showing that members of the Trump team were picked up on legally issued FISA warrants and that the information gleaned was illegally disseminated within the Obama Administration during the transition period. Lawfare published a handy transcript.

Nunes: I can say that we’ve been asking for people to come forward. They came through the proper channels and have clearances and I’m just going to leave it at that because we have to protect people who came forward in the right manner. I’m not even going to say it’s one person.

Reporter: To be clear, you talk about this as being collected incidentally. But you say it had nothing to do with Russia. Are you suggesting these communications could have been collected as part of a criminal investigation, a criminal warrant?

Nunes: No. In the dozens of reports I was able to see, I was able to determine that it looks like it was legal collection, incidental collection, that made itself into intelligence reports. It has to do with FISA, and there are multiple FISA warrants that are out there, but there’s nothing criminal at all involved.

As we at Wonkette have mentioned, THE FIRST RULE OF FISA WARRANTS IS YOU DON'T TALK ABOUT FISA WARRANTS. That's why James Comey refused to discuss them in the open hearing on Tuesday. Even assuming that Nunes's whistleblowers actually exist, their "coming through the proper channels" doesn't somehow declassify the reports. Did Nunes just reveal classified information to the entire press pool? Looks like it!

Nunes was at pains to say he hadn't verified any of this new info with the CIA, NSA or FBI. So why did he feel the need to race over to the White House and spill the beans? It's kind of a headscratcher! But Nunes wants everyone to know that it was all his own idea.

The president didn't invite me over, I called down there and invited myself because I thought he needed to understand what I saw and that he needed to try to get that information because he has every right to see it.

That seems kind of a weird thing to volunteer. Almost like Nunes is trying very hard to give everyone the impression that his info was coming from anywhere but inside the White House.

But he won't deny that the White House is the source of the "reports." Hmmmmmmm.

And the White House certainly appreciated his act of loyalty.

Nunes Is SHOCKED, SHOCKED That You Find His Leaking Inappropriate

After Nunes's Wednesday funtimes, shit really hit the fan in Washington. Nancy Pelosi called him a "stooge" for the Trump Administration, who is "deeply compromised, and he cannot possibly lead an honest investigation." John McCain said the House Intel Committee had lost credibility and should be replaced by a special investigative committee. And former intelligence analysts were horrified.

Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff for the CIA, said he’s “never heard of a chairman of an oversight committee going to brief the president of the United States about concerns he has about things he’s read in intelligence reports.”

“The job of the committee is to do oversight over the executive branch — not to bring them in to their investigation or tip them off to things they may have been looking at,” Bash added. “I’ve gotta believe other members of the committee are horrified at what they just witnessed.”

Not to mention Adam Schiff was royally pissed.

Naturally, Nunes went to the most trusted journalist to clear his name. As he told Sean Hannity,

It’s clear that I would be concerned if I was the president, and that’s why I wanted him to know... I felt like I had a duty and obligation to tell him, because, as you know, he’s taking a lot of heat in the news media, and I think to some degree there are some things he should look at to see whether, in fact, he thinks the collection was proper or not.

That makes so much sense! It's just Standard Operating Procedure to run evidence by suspects to make sure it meets with their approval. Nothing to see here.

And don't forget the Washington Examiner will always be there for a Republican reacharound.

"Because it was going to be so politically charged, I just decided look, at the end of the day, I have a responsibility to inform the White House," Nunes said. "We oversee the agencies, and what I saw in those reports concerned me enough that [the president] should be able to read those." [...]

Nunes also made clear that he had not apologized to Democratic members of the Intelligence Committee for keeping them in the dark. Nunes said that he didn't want Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the committee's top Democrat, or his colleagues, publicly sandbagging him before he presented his findings.

"I still think I made the right decision," he added.

Is Devin Nunes Going To Jail Or Nah?

Devin Nunes is nah going to jail. PROBABLY.

So, just for starters, Republicans MIGHT be charged with obstruction of justice and leaking classified materials. In general, it's a lot easier to prosecute someone for lying about political obstruction and leaking than for the actual conduct. See, Scooter Libby.

Sainted Lawfare will break down the statutes on Obstruction of Justice for us.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 1505, a felony offense is committed by anyone who “corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation in being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress.”


If you knowingly and willfully make a false statement of material fact in a federal government proceeding, you’ve potentially violated § 1001 [which bars lying to investigators, even when you're not under oath], and when you add an objective to influence, obstruct, or impede an investigation, you’ve now possibly violated § 1505  as well. 

We have no idea what information Nunes shared with the president. If for example, Nunes told the president that there was an ongoing wire tap of Paul Manafort's communications, and Manafort subsequently ceased using his phone, there would be a strong case that Nunes and Trump had obstructed justice in the FBI investigation of Manafort.

But what if the information, or misinformation, flowed in the opposite direction?

Relatedly, 18 U.S.C. § 1512 makes it a crime to lie to a witness in an attempt to induce that witness to lie before Congress or a judicial hearing. So if a Trump campaign official lies to a witness that’s about to go before Congress to testify hoping that witness will pass the lie along, that’s a federal offense.

If Trumpland knowingly dispatched someone to lie to a Congressional investigation, they might also be found guilty of obstruction of justice.

Lawfare can also be our guide on the Law of Leaks.

The cornerstone of anti-leak law is a provision of the Espionage Act of 1917, codified at 18 U.S.C. § 793, which criminalizes improperly accessing, handling, or transmitting “information respecting the national defense” with the intent of injuring the United States or aiding a foreign nation. Under Supreme Court precedent, “national defense information” is broadly defined and includes sensitive information relating not only to the military, but also to national security more generally.


Later amendments added 18 U.S.C. § 798, criminalizing the disclosure of various kinds of classified information including information “concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government.”

If Nunes disclosed information on FISA warrants, even the very existence of those warrants, he might be prosecuted for violating the Espionage Act. BUT DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH, because almost no one is ever prosecuted unless they directly lie to investigators. On the other hand, Nunes was stupid enough to hold a press conference to tell reporters that he'd just briefed the president on FISA wiretaps. So ... who knows what he might do???

Only time and Jim Comey will tell if anyone will be prosecuted. But if you lazyasses show up in the midterms, we can take back the House and start holding hearings of our own. SO VOTE!!!

[WaPo / The Hill / PoliticoWaPo again / NPR / Lawfare / Think Progress / Washington Examiner / Lawfare, again / Lawfare, FTW ]

We watched Hannity last night FOR YOU! That's worth a couple bucks, right?

Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.


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