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Did House Republicans leak a senator's texts to conservative media?

When Republicans use the House Intelligence Committee to attack the Senate Intelligence Committee, something important is amiss.
Image: Rep. Devin Nunes Briefs Press On House Intelligence Cmte Russia Investigation
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 22: House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) speaks to reporters during a press conference at the...

For much of the last year, there's been ample reason to believe the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee, led by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), is simply out of control. Nunes' partisan antics and sycophantic attitude toward Donald Trump have made the once-respected committee a laughingstock.

There's news today that suggests the House panel is actually getting worse.

To quickly recap, Fox News reported several weeks ago that Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, made an effort to reach out to Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence official who wrote a dossier on Trump, through an intermediary. The story, based on text exchanges between Warner and D.C. lawyer Adam Waldman, proved to be meaningless, though the president briefly pretended the Democratic senator had been "caught" engaging in some kind of nefarious scheme.

The transparently dumb non-story, which even some Senate Republicans dismissed as nonsense, faded quickly, but there was a lingering question: how did Fox News get hold of Warner's texts?

The New York Times published a report this morning that seems to answer that question in an unsettling way.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee were behind the leak of private text messages between the Senate panel's top Democrat and a Russian-connected lawyer, according to two congressional officials briefed on the matter.Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the committee's Republican chairman, and Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat, were so perturbed by the leak that they demanded a rare meeting with Speaker Paul D. Ryan last month to inform him of their findings. They used the meeting with Mr. Ryan to raise broader concerns about the direction of the House Intelligence Committee under its chairman, Representative Devin Nunes of California, the officials said.

Look, I'm aware of the whole "politics ain't beanbag" adage, and assorted partisan pugilists are occasionally going to throw a punch. But when Republicans use the House Intelligence Committee to attack the Senate Intelligence Committee, it points to developments that are deeply unhealthy to our system of government.

And while this reporting hasn't been independently verified by NBC News or MSNBC, the Times' report suggests there's no real doubt about what happened here.

Copies of the messages were originally submitted by Mr. Waldman to the Senate committee. In January, one of Mr. Nunes's staff members requested that copies be shared with the House committee as well, according to a person familiar with the request who was not authorized to talk about it publicly. Days later, the messages were published by Fox News, the person said. Fox's report said that it had obtained the documents from a Republican source it did not name.The documents published by Fox News appear to back up the senators' accusation. Though they were marked "CONFIDENTIAL: Produced to USSSCI on a Confidential Basis," suggesting that they had come from the Senate panel, known as the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the person familiar with the congressional requests said that the stamp was misleading and that other markings gave away their actual origin.Specifically, the copy of the messages shared with the Senate was paginated, and the one submitted to the House -- while preserving the reference to the Senate committee -- was unpaginated.

Nunes' spokesperson didn't deny the leak, but instead complained about the New York Times.

I don't know when the House Intelligence Committee will recover from what Nunes has done to it, but I know it won't be anytime soon.