From Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic:
Representative Devin Nunes, a Republican, is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He is therefore leading a key probe into whether or not Donald Trump’s presidential campaign had ties to Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Can an inquiry he leads be trusted?
[M]istrust seemed vindicated Tuesday when Nunes responded to a journalist’s question about the Russia investigation with a highly dubious answer.
The journalist was David Corn, a progressive who works at Mother Jones. He asked Nunes about Carter Page and Roger Stone, two figures whose ties to both Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia have piqued widespread interest and media coverage. Nunes insisted that he wasn’t familiar with either man.
“You haven’t heard of Carter Page and all these other people?” Corn asked.
“No,” Nunes said.
“I mean,” Corn replied, “there were about five names mentioned by the Democrats.”
“I don’t know these people,” Nunes said.
Said an incredulous Corn, “You’ve not heard of Carter Page or Roger Stone?”
“No,” Nunes insisted, “I’ve heard of Manafort,” Trump’s former campaign chairman, who was paid handsomely to do work for a pro-Russia faction in Ukraine, and was later replaced by Trump, apparently due to public controversy over those ties.
Carter Page was a foreign-policy adviser to Trump when he was a candidate.
[Page] traveled to Moscow to speak at a Russian university prior to the election. And he met with the Russian ambassador during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, despite previously claiming on TV that he had no such meetings. […] [A]nyone investigating the possibility would be incompetent or dishonest if they insisted that they’d never even heard of the man.
It seems even less likely that Nunes has never heard of Roger Stone, given his long career in Republican politics and frequent media appearances over the years.
Stone is germane to this story because he worked on the Trump campaign and communicated on Twitter with a hacker alleged to have facilitated the leaks of DNC emails.
On February 14, the New York Times published the article “Trump Campaign Aids Had Repeated Contacts with Russian Intelligence.” It included this paragraph:
The F.B.I. has closely examined at least three other people close to Mr. Trump, although it is unclear if their calls were intercepted. They are Carter Page, a businessman and former foreign policy adviser to the campaign; Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative; and Mr. [Michael] Flynn.
The White House then asked key intelligence officials and lawmakers to debunk the article, according to the Washington Post. Nunes was one of them: “Nunes spoke on the record and was subsequently quoted in the Wall Street Journal,” the newspaper reported.
Later, on March 3, during a television interview with a local news affiliate in his district, Nunes was asked about the Russia investigation and a Fresno Bee editorial that called him a “paper tiger” who was not equipped to lead the effort.
In the course of a long, meandering series of answers, Nunes said, “I think where people are getting confused at is, there was a New York Times story where three Americans were named in that story. And I was asked whether or not I was going to bring those people before the committee and ask them questions. And I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ I said we cannot go on witch hunts against the American people just because their name ends up in a newspaper story, because look, we know this, all newspapers are biased … I have to be very careful not to start hunting down Americans and bringing them before the legislative branch of government just because they appeared in a newspaper story as being a friend of some foreign government.”
In other words, far from being unfamiliar with Carter Page and Roger Stone, Nunes apparently concluded weeks ago that it would be improper for his committee to call them to testify, ostensibly because he doesn’t trust the objectivity of the New York Times—this despite the fact that, as best I can tell, the local news interview happened after Page went on live television and admitted to meeting with the Russian ambassador at the RNC, reversing his prior, inaccurate public position.
Now, weeks later, Nunes tells David Corn—and by extension, the American public—that he is flat-out unfamiliar with Page and Stone, both having been subject to massive media attention; attention including mentions in a prominent news article Nunes helped Trump rebut; mentions Nunes alluded to earlier this month.
Given all that, do you trust Nunes to run this investigation honestly?