WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) walks to the House floor on Capitol Hill, March 24, 2017 in...
Drew Angerer

Devin Nunes didn’t read the intel behind his own memo

Updated

The Washington Post  reported late yesterday that Donald Trump became more familiar with the so-called “Nunes memo” during a conversation with a pair of House conservatives two weeks ago. It wasn’t long before the Republican president became “absolutely convinced” he wanted the partisan document to reach the public.

This was, the article added, “before he had even read it.”

The reading-isn’t-necessary attitude apparently isn’t limited to the White House. The New York Times had a related report overnight on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), whose aides are apparently responsible for creating the partisan document, and who appears to have skipped a relevant part of the process.

Mr. Nunes has not read the warrant from which the memo is said to be drawn. The Justice Department considers such warrants extremely sensitive and allowed only one Democrat and one Republican from the committee, plus staff, to view it. Rather than do so himself, Mr. Nunes designated Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina to be the Republican reader.

Just to flesh this out a bit, the warrant in question relates to Carter Page, who served as a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, and someone who’s been accused of acting as an agent of a foreign power (in this case, Russia). Nunes’ memo is reportedly based on the idea that the FBI and the Justice Department were wrong to do court-approved surveillance of Carter just because he’d been targeted by a Russian spy ring, made multiple trips to Russia, met high-ranking Russian officials in Moscow, publicly criticized U.S. sanctions against the Putin government, and was advising Russia’s preferred American presidential candidate.

Intelligence officials made the case for that surveillance to a FISA court judge with specific information. Nunes, while making the case in his memo against that surveillance, could have read the underlying intelligence, but didn’t.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/29/18, 9:26 PM ET

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To be sure, this angle isn’t altogether new. Nunes’ decision not to read the materials himself became clear when the transcript of Monday’s debate in the House Intelligence Committee was released. Indeed, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the panel’s ranking member, told Rachel on the show this week, “What’s important to realize is the chairman of this committee who’s pushing this memo out hasn’t even read the underlying materials himself. So, he can’t vouch for the accuracy or the inaccuracy as this case maybe of his own work product.”

It doesn’t inspire confidence, does it?

Postscript: It’s worth noting for context that Trey Gowdy, who did read the classified materials that Nunes didn’t read, unexpectedly announced his retirement the day after the committee voted to release the memo.

I’m not saying one event caused the other, but it’s a detail worth keeping in mind.

Intelligence

Devin Nunes didn't read the intel behind his own memo

Updated