So yesterday, seemingly out of the blue, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee (which supposedly has been investigating whether President Donald Trump’s campaign minions colluded with Russians to throw the recent election) held a press conference pretty obviously designed to provide cover to Trump’s recent outrageous lie that former President Obama “wiretapped” Trump Tower.
The chairman said he’d been made aware of unspecified reports from the U.S. intelligence community showing that communication from members of the Trump transition team were “incidentally collected” as part of broader surveillance that supposedly had nothing to do with Russia. He refused to provide sources for his claim, and did not share the information with members of his investigation committee. Instead, he made the claims in a press conference and then ran inside the White House to brief the President whose actions he was allegedly investigating.
It is worth noting that the chairman, Devin Nunes, R-California, was a member of Trump’s transition team and remains a big pal of the prez.
Here’s a fair analysis of what Nunes may be up to. In my opinion, he and the President are clearly and desperately trying to divert public attention away from an FBI investigation into the same thing Nunes’ committee was supposed to be investigating.
The diversion isn’t working.
From Jeff Horwitz and Chad Day at The Associated Press:
Before signing up with Donald Trump, former campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly worked for a Russian billionaire with a plan to “greatly benefit the Putin Government,” The Associated Press has learned. The White House attempted to brush the report aside Wednesday, but it quickly raised fresh alarms in Congress about Russian links to Trump associates.
Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics to benefit President Vladimir Putin’s government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.
Manafort pitched the plans to aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP. Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work.
“We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska. The effort, Manafort wrote, “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.”
From Pamela Brown, Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Jim Sciutto at CNN:
The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.
This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, according to one source.
The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those U.S. officials. The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing.
From Mike Allen, long-time reporter for the likes of The New York Times, the Washington Post, Time magazine, Politico and now Axios:
Watergate was a coverup of a burglary. This could be the coverup of a nuclear-armed U.S. nemesis that infiltrated our politics with the specific aim of disrupting the very foundation of our democracy — a presidential election — and did so, possibly, in a manner that elected its preferred candidate and locked in all party control that could decimate the opposition party for years.
From Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee that Nunes chairs:
“The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct, which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or he’s going to act as a surrogate of the White House. Because he cannot do both.”
From me: Congress, dominated as it is by a strand of Republicans who put party and campaign contributions first and the country last, can’t be trusted to investigate the Trump administration in this mess, as more patriotic Republicans did in the Nixon era. It’s obvious the American people need an independent special prosecutor to lead an investigation. And it’s obvious we now need a Congress that puts America first.