WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 22: House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) speaks to reporters during a press conference at the...
Win McNamee

Before his strange announcement, Intel chair went to the White House

Updated
It’s entirely possible that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is deliberately trying to derail the investigation he’s ostensibly leading. The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza posited last week that the California Republican found himself stuck pursuing a Russia scandal in a way that would do real damage to Donald Trump, so Nunes “essentially blew up” the investigation.

And if that is the GOP lawmaker’s goal – to compromise himself and the investigation his committee is conducting – it’s almost certainly working. Today the story took a truly bizarre twist.
The day before he announced to reporters that Donald Trump may have been incidentally monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies during the transition, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes met with the source of that information at the White House, a Nunes spokesman told NBC News.

“Chairman Nunes met with his source at the White House grounds in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source,” said his spokesman, Jack Langer…. Nunes has declined to say who provided the intelligence reports he referenced, but his admission that he met with his source at the White House is fueling suspicions among Democrats that his source was someone close to Trump.
For those who haven’t been following this, let’s back up for a minute.

On Wednesday, Nunes held two fairly breathless press conferences to suggest he received secret information – from a source he would not identify – that there were incidental recordings of Trump transition officials, after the election but before the inauguration, conducted by intelligence agencies as part of legal surveillance. The congressman struggled to keep key details of his story straight, including whether Trump was personally recorded – a point he initially confirmed to reporters, before reversing course.

Nunes made matters worse by going to the White House on Wednesday afternoon to brief Team Trump – in the process undermining his own investigation, stepping all over separation of powers, trashing the process he’s supposed to be honoring, and acting as if he were somehow a presidential employee – without bothering to talk to his colleagues on the House Intelligence Committee.

Today’s revelations, however, deal with what happened the day before.

On Tuesday night, Nunes reportedly received a phone call that prompted him to leave an Uber ride with an aide. It now appears the congressman went to the White House to review classified material, which is odd because he had a variety of other choices – including secure locations on Capitol Hill, a mile and a half from the White House, where Intelligence Committee members examine sensitive information on a nearly daily basis.

So, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee received information from the Trump administration at the White House complex, which he then shared with the media the next day in the hopes of benefiting Trump at an impromptu press conference outside the White House, before he entered the White House to brief Trump administration officials.

[Update: Nunes, who insisted last week he couldn’t talk about his sources, told Bloomberg Politics today his contact was not a White House staffer and was an intelligence official.}

Today, Nunes was supposed to host an open hearing on the investigation with several key figures, but the Republican chairman cancelled the hearing without explanation late last week.

Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation is also ongoing, and will include testimony from Jared Kushner, a top aide to Donald Trump, who participated in a meeting in December with Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said there is no doubt that Russia “massively intervened” in the American presidential election last year.

Warner added, in reference to the investigation, “Weeks ago, when I was first getting started with this, I said, ‘This is the most important thing I’ve ever worked on.’ With what I know now, I doubly believe that.” After the senator acknowledged that there’s “a lot more smoke” than there was weeks ago, Chuck Todd asked, “You think the fire’s there?”

Warner replied, “Time will tell.”

Donald Trump, Intelligence, Mark Warner, Russia, Scandals and White House

Before his strange announcement, Intel chair went to the White House

Updated