Putting part of national security in hands of Valley-bagman Nunes is a bad idea
A spokesman for Nunes said that he had already begun speaking to reporters to challenge the story and that, “at the request of a White House communications aide, Chairman Nunes then spoke to an additional reporter and delivered the same message.”
Unlike the others, Nunes spoke on the record and was subsequently quoted in the Wall Street Journal. -- Miller, Entous, Washington Post, Feb. 24, 2017
Starting with his "New PAC," which was already spreading money around Congress and beyond to rightwing candidates by 2008 1. and continuing on to swapping out his chief of staff, Johnny Amaral, to Westlands Water District in 2015,2. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, has proved to be a piece of work, made in the Valley in the mold of the great dairy bagman, former Rep. Tony "The Auctioneer" Coelho, D-Merced. Coelho was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee when he resigned rather than face an ethics-committee investigation into personal loans from Michael Milken. We figure the odds are better than 50/50, the same or worse will happen to Nunes.
In a word, ethical they ain't and the truth isn't in Nunes any more than it inhabited former Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, during his campaigns against the federal Endangered Species Act and any other environmental law, regulation or process -- campaigns sustained by the same special interests that are presently pumping every aquifer they can find on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley dry, collapsing it and causing land subsidence which, if properly located, had the additional destructive capacity to twist and crack canals flowing south from the San Joaquin Delta. Other campaigns these Valley nobles supported wholeheartedly involved residential growth at any cost, including the greatest real estate bust in the history of our humble booming/busting agrarian landscape here in the "heart of California." 3.
And now Nunes applies his rigid little mind to the problem of the truth or falsehood of information generated by federal intelligence agencies? This comes down as a corollary to a proposition, the current definition of psychosis making the rounds among the cable-channel talking heads to describe Nunes's Imperious Leader in the White House. The image is of the diseased mind of an individual, possibly the president of the United States, which is likened to a locked safe whose combination has been lost. Nunes can be counted upon to extend the darkness of the vault.
Nunes is every bit as loony as Trump (you only had to have heard him on the Phony Drought of 2009), he raises funds from special interests whose entire aim is to confuse, obfuscate and obstruct any inquiries into the harm they do in order to make their fortunes, and now -- appearing still fresh from the Tulare County Fair Cow Barn -- he's taking his act international.
It should give pause to patriots because the concept of the Common Good appears to be beyond this representative of the Number One Cow County in America.
Trump administration sought to enlist intelligence officials, key lawmakers to counter Russia stories
National Security reporter Greg Miller explains why the Trump administration is enlisting the help of intelligence officials and Members of Congress to counter Russia stories. (Jorge Ribas, Ashleigh Joplin/The Washington Post)
By Greg Miller and Adam Entous
The Trump administration has enlisted senior members of the intelligence community and Congress in efforts to counter news stories about Trump associates’ ties to Russia, a politically charged issue that has been under investigation by the FBI as well as lawmakers now defending the White House.\
Acting at the behest of the White House, the officials made calls to news organizations last week in attempts to challenge stories about alleged contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives, U.S. officials said.
The calls were orchestrated by the White House after unsuccessful attempts by the administration to get senior FBI officials to speak with news organizations and dispute the accuracy of stories on the alleged contacts with Russia.
The White House on Friday acknowledged those interactions with the FBI but did not disclose that it then turned to other officials who agreed to do what the FBI would not — participate in White House-arranged calls with news organizations, including The Washington Post.
Two of those officials spoke on the condition of anonymity — a practice President Trump has condemned.
The officials broadly dismissed Trump associates’ contacts with Russia as infrequent and inconsequential. But the officials would not answer substantive questions about the issue, and their comments were not published by The Post and do not appear to have been reported elsewhere.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer confirmed that the White House communicated with officials with the aim of contesting reporting on Russia, but maintained that the administration did nothing improper. “When informed by the FBI that [the Russia-related reporting] was false, we told reporters who else they should contact to corroborate the FBI’s version of the story,” he said.
The decision to involve those officials could be perceived as threatening the independence of U.S. spy agencies that are supposed to remain insulated from partisan issues, as well as undercutting the credibility of ongoing congressional probes. Those officials saw their involvement as an attempt to correct coverage they believed to be erroneous.
The effort also involved senior lawmakers with access to classified intelligence about Russia, including Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees. A spokesman for Nunes said that he had already begun speaking to reporters to challenge the story and that, “at the request of a White House communications aide, Chairman Nunes then spoke to an additional reporter and delivered the same message.”
Unlike the others, Nunes spoke on the record and was subsequently quoted in the Wall Street Journal.
In an interview, Burr acknowledged that he “had conversations about” Russia-related news reports with the White House and engaged with news organizations to dispute articles by the New York Times and CNN that alleged “repeated” or “constant” contact between Trump campaign members and Russian intelligence operatives.
“I’ve had those conversations,” Burr said, adding that he regarded the contacts as appropriate provided that “I felt I had something to share that didn’t breach my responsibilities to the committee in an ongoing investigation.”
The administration’s push against the Russia coverage intensified Sunday when White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said in television interviews that he had been authorized “by the top levels of the intelligence community” to denounce reports on Trump campaign contacts with Russia as false.
Priebus’s denunciations ranged from calling the articles “overstated” to saying they were “complete garbage.”
Administration officials said that Priebus’s comments had been cleared by FBI Director James B. Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. In doing so, the FBI’s leadership would appear to have been drawing a distinction between authorizing comments by a White House official and addressing the matter themselves.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, issued a statement Friday evening saying that if the White House “contrived to have intelligence officials contradict unfavorable news reports, this represents a new and even more grave threat to the independence of the intelligence community.”
Former intelligence officials expressed concern over the blurring of lines between intelligence and politics, with some recalling Republican accusations that the Obama administration had twisted intelligence in its accounts of the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
“I doubt that there was any enthusiasm from the intelligence leadership to get involved in this in the first place,” former CIA director Michael Hayden said, noting that it seemed unlikely that Priebus’s bluntly worded denials were consistent with the “precise language” favored by intelligence analysts.
“Think Benghazi here,” Hayden said in an interview by email. “This is what happens when the intel guys are leaned on for the narrative of the political speakers. The latter have different rules, words, purposes. Getting intel into that mix always ends unhappily, [and] it looks like we just did.”
The Trump administration’s actions reflect its level of concern about coverage of its relationship with Russia. Trump has continued to praise Russian President Vladimir Putin, even after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had interfered in the U.S. presidential race to help Trump win.
Trump has also repeatedly disparaged the intelligence agencies that his administration last week turned to for support. Shortly before taking office, Trump accused U.S. spy agencies of a Nazi-style leaks campaign to smear him.
The White House statements on the issue Friday came after CNN reported that the FBI had refused administration requests to publicly “knock down” media reports about ties between Trump associates and Russian intelligence.
Administration officials disputed the account, saying that rather than soliciting FBI feedback, Priebus had been pulled aside by McCabe on the morning of Feb. 15 and told, “I want you to know” that the New York Times story “is BS.”
The FBI declined to discuss the matter.
White House officials declined to comment on the administration’s subsequent effort to enlist other government officials and would not agree to allow the identification of the intelligence officials who had spoken to The Post last week. In separate calls, those individuals insisted on being identified only as “a senior intelligence official in the Trump administration” and “a senior member of the intelligence community.”
In a brief interview on the night of Feb. 15, the senior intelligence official said that the suggestion that there was frequent contact between Russians and Trump associates was false, describing any conversations as sporadic, limited and based on Russia’s interest in building a relationship with the future Trump administration rather than shaping the 2016 presidential race.
The senior intelligence official appeared to be referring to contacts between Trump’s designated national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Trump was sworn in as president. Flynn was forced out of his job earlier this month after The Post reported that Flynn had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Kislyak and then misled Trump administration officials about the nature of his contacts.
Officials at the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment on whether senior officials at those agencies had discussed Russia coverage with the White House or been involved in efforts to refute stories on that subject.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo is the senior-most intelligence official in the administration, with former senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.) still awaiting confirmation as director of national intelligence.
As a Republican member of Congress, Pompeo was among the most fiercely partisan figures in the House investigation of Benghazi, which centered on accusations that the Obama administration had twisted intelligence about the attacks for political purposes.
It is not unusual for CIA leaders to have contact with news organizations, particularly about global issues such as terrorism or to contest news accounts of CIA operations. But involving the agency on alleged Trump campaign ties to Russia could be problematic.
The CIA is not in charge of the investigation. Given the history of domestic espionage abuses in the United States, CIA officials are typically averse to being drawn into matters that involve U.S. citizens or might make the agency vulnerable to charges that it is politicizing intelligence.
A U.S. intelligence official declined to discuss any Pompeo involvement except to say that he was “not involved in drafting or approving statements for public use by the White House this past weekend on alleged Russian contacts.”
Whether there were such contacts remains a major point of contention. Beyond Flynn, the investigation has focused on other figures including Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, who had previously served as a paid political adviser to the Putin-backed president of Ukraine.
U.S. intelligence reports cite multiple contacts between members of Trump’s team and Russians with links to the Kremlin, during the campaign and afterward, according to officials who have seen them. Such reports were based on intercepted Russian communications and other sources, the officials said.
Nunes, who served as a member of Trump’s transition team, has resisted calls for his House committee to investigate alleged contacts between Trump associates and Russia. He said in an interview that after months of investigations, U.S. authorities have turned up no evidence of such contacts.
“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.”
Philip Rucker, Ellen Nakashima and Julie Tate contributed to this report.
Residents to hold candlelight vigils for ‘missing’ Reps. Nunes, Valadao
Residents plan to gather in Visalia and Tulare Thursday to hold candlelight vigils at the offices of Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, and Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford. Their criticism: The lawmakers are not hosting town hall meetings during the congressional recess this week.
Other Republican representatives, such as Roseville’s Tom McClintock, have convened such gatherings, which were used by some to air grievances against both Congress and President Donald Trump’s administration.
The events are part of a series planned by the Courage Campaign, described on its website as an online community working to create a more progressive California. The first will run from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Valadao’s Hanford office, 101 North Irwin St., Suite 110B. The second will be at Nunes’ Tulare office at the corner of M Street and Kennedy Avenue. Similar vigils will be held at five other California representatives’ offices.
According to a news release, constituents are concerned about what the congressmen will do to help immigrant families and safeguard health-care coverage.
To push the point of the protest, the Courage Campaign created “missing” posters of the Nunes and several others.
Nunes and Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield came under fire Tuesday night at a GOP fundraiser, where more than 100 protestors met the two leading Republicans with calls for action. Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the Trump transition team, has also been criticized for not investigating the leaks of sensitive information from the White House to outside countries. On Friday, Nunes wrote a letter asking the Federal Bureau of Investigation to look into the release of classified information.
More than 400 people turned out Tuesday night to address McClintock at the Mariposa Fairgrounds. Constituents on both sides of the aisle lobbed questions, statements, boos and cheers, but the event was largely peaceful apart from the slashing of several vehicles’ tires in the parking lot.
McCarthy, Nunes come under fire for attending fundraiser not town halls
By Steven Mayer
The signs said, “Where is Kevin?” and “Make America sane again.”
The chant repeated in call-and-answer style, “Kevin, do your job!”
Between 100 and 150 people gathered in front of the DoubleTree Hotel on Rosedale Highway Tuesday night to ask their congressman, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, why he had time to attend a GOP fundraiser at the hotel yet declined an invitation to participate in a town hall discussion scheduled for Wednesday.
“Kevin just got re-elected. Why is it so important for him to attend a party fundraiser? You think it would be more important for him to speak to his constituents,” said Mary Anne Stiern-McLay, a retiree from the Bakersfield Police Department.
The House majority leader, McCarthy was to give an “inside look” at Washington policy and politics at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner fundraiser. The evening’s keynote speaker was to be Rep. Devin Nunes, the Tulare Republican who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the Trump transition team.
The fundraiser was the largest local GOP event of the year, according to organizers.
Wednesday morning, McCarthy spokesman Matt Sparks said, “Congressman McCarthy is pleased to support our local Republican Party in its annual fundraising event to promote our principles and solutions facing our community, state, and nation.
“The congressman has a previously scheduled charitable event” Wednesday evening, Sparks said.
Nunes also came under fire from protest organizers for not holding town hall meetings. Republicans across the nation are coming under criticism for their party’s renewed efforts to dismantle Obamacare, among other things. Jack Langer, Nunes’ communications director, told The Bee the congressman’s last public forum was in August, when nearly 1,000 people gathered in Tulare to discuss water needs in the central San Joaquin Valley.
Tuesday’s gala left many at the rally wondering where McCarthy’s priorities lie.
Sloan Holmes, who attended the demonstration with a friend, said her son had a brain tumor when he was 12. Years later as an adult, he received a letter from his insurance company informing him that his lifetime benefits had run out.
When the Affordable Care Act was passed during the Obama administration, it prohibited the practice by insurance companies of denying individuals coverage due to a pre-existing condition.
“That was important to us,” Holmes said. “It was a relief that my son could not be denied coverage.”
The United States is the richest, most advanced nation in the world, Holmes said. “We should be able to take care of our own.”
People are fearful, said Jesse Aguilar, a high school teacher who spoke at the rally. They see the direction the country is taking, he said, as “an attack on those folks least able to defend themselves. And that is ominous.”
The day before his inauguration as president, Donald Trump spotted McCarthy at a luncheon. “Where’s Kevin?” he asked. “There’s my Kevin.”
A sign at Tuesday night’s protest asked another question: “Whose Kevin are you?”
(1) Michael Doyle, McClatchy Newspapers, May 28, 2008
(2) Dan Bacher, Truthout.com, April 1, 2015
(3) Cold as a creek with no gold in a February blizzard. -- blj