House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) based much of his notorious “memo” on the idea that Carter Page, a former Donald Trump adviser and suspected agent of a foreign adversary, should not have been the subject of federal surveillance. That line of argument has not worked out well.
And so, this morning, Nunes shifted his focus a bit, questioning scrutiny of George Papadopoulos, another former foreign policy adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign. Here’s what the California congressman told Fox News this morning:
“I would say that if Papadopoulos were such a major figure, why didn’t you get a warrant on him? Papadopoulos was such a major figure, you had nothing on him, you know, the guy lied. As far as we can tell, Papadopoulos never even knew who Trump – you know, never even had met with the president.
“And look, getting drunk in London and talking to diplomats saying that you don’t like Hillary Clinton is, really — I think it’s kind of scary that our intelligence agencies would take that and use it against an American citizen.”
The assertion that Trump and Papadopoulos never met might be a better talking point if the Trump campaign hadn’t already released a picture of Trump hosting a “national security meeting” in 2016 – with Papadopoulos.
It’s probably the sort of detail the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee should know before peddling bogus claims to a national television audience.
Nunes’ broader point, however, was that (a) Papadopoulos was an unimportant and peripheral figure in Trump’s political operation; and (b) officials’ scrutiny of Papadopoulos should be seen as suspect.
This is, to be sure, what the White House wants its partners to say. Indeed, it’s likely why the president himself tweeted this morning, “Representative Devin Nunes, a man of tremendous courage and grit, may someday be recognized as a Great American Hero for what he has exposed and what he has had to endure!”
Reality, however, is stubborn.
Let’s recap for those who may have forgotten some of the basic details. In March 2016, Donald Trump told the Washington Post he had a small group of people advising him on matters of foreign policy. “George Papadopoulos, he’s an energy and oil consultant, excellent guy,” the then-candidate said.
Court documents later showed that Papadopoulos communicated with top members of Trump’s campaign operation, including former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, former campaign co-chair Sam Clovis, and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. (As regular readers may recall, Papadopoulos was also reportedly in contact with Carter Page, the suspected foreign agent.)
As part of his work, Papadopoulos tried to arrange meetings between campaign officials and Russian officials – including an instance in which he said one of his Russian contacts claimed to have “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
That’s a far cry from saying he didn’t “like Hillary Clinton,” which is what Nunes said this morning.
When Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team asked Papadopoulos about his work, the adviser apparently lied about his contacts with Kremlin-connected Russians, which ultimately led to a guilty plea and a cooperation agreement.
Devin Nunes, apparently no longer capable of shame, suggested this morning that Papadopoulos is simply unimportant. It’s a position that’s difficult to take seriously.
Postscript: As the Washington Post explained very well, this wasn’t the only part of Nunes’ Fox News appearance this morning that was wrong.