In a curious subplot to the Trump-Russia scandal Nunes stood by the former national security adviser when even the White House called him a liar
The day after Donald Trump fired him, Michael Flynn had no friends in Washington but one: Devin Nunes, the president of the House intelligence committee.
Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, had been laid low before. In 2014, the heads of US intelligence and Pentagon intelligence pushed Flynn out. His relationship with the US intelligence agencies never quite recovered. Flynns subsequent penchant for inflammatory, erratic and even bigoted statements left few, particularly in security circles, willing to defend him.
The exception to that regulation was Nunes.
The now ex-national security consultant was a soldier , not a legislator, Nunes said following Flynns downfall.
Even the White House was calling Flynn a liar. It attributed his firing to Flynn misinforming vice-president Mike Pence over Flynns conversations with the Russian ambassador. But if Flynn had made any misstep, Nunes suggested, it was in being too pure for politics.
Washington DC can be a rough township for honorable people, Nunes said, adding that Flynn deserves Americas gratitude and respect for dedicating so much of their own lives to strengthening our national security.
Nuness affinity for Flynn has become an underappreciated subplot of a scandal that has now consumed the congressmans own political lucks. Nunes, the president of the House intelligence committee investigating Trumps alleged ties to Russia an allegation in which Flynn plays a substantial role is now under flame for what his Democratic colleagues charge is collusion with the White House to obstruct the inquiry.
In the hours before Trump fired Flynn, Nunes, a member of Trumps national security transition squad, fanned out to deny that Flynn had done anything wrong.
He told Bloomberg news, It just seems like theres a lot of nothing there. Flynn was a change agent in intelligence, Nunes said. Those leaking against Flynn, Nunes said, using a favored Trump locution, want the inundate to remain. Nunes told Foxs Neil Cavuto that Flynn was likely the best intelligence officer of his generation.
Yet Flynn is now trying an immunity deal to testify before Nuness inquiry and others. Jack Langer, a spokesman for Nunes, confirmed on Friday that the committee on conferences had had a preliminary conversation with Flynns lawyer to discuss Flynn speaking to the committee.
The deliberations did not include immunity or other possible conditions for his appearance, Langer said.
Nunes and Flynns own professional intersection even plays a role in Nuness corner of the controversy. One of the White House officials who aided Nunes in accessing classified intelligence forming the basis of Nuness allegation that Trump officials identities were improperly disseminated in surveillance intercepts is Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a former Flynn deputy on the NSC and DIA whom Flynns successor, HR McMaster, unsuccessfully sought to oust.
Since the inquiry began, Nunes has steered it away from the central question of Trump associates ties to Russia and toward the ancillary question of potential leaks of classified information against Trumps team the focus that Trump himself desires. Central to Nuness maneuver has been an emphasis on what he considers an injustice done to Flynn: the exposure of his contacts with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.
Ahead of the explosive 20 March public hearing Nunes held, the intelligence committee chairperson told Fox News: I believe the concern that the Trump administration has is, you know, were they actually utilizing surveillance activities to know what they were up to, because we know that that happened with General Flynn. We know that his name was unmasked and we know that it was leaked out to the press.
Nunes and committee Republicans repeatedly pressed the FBI director, James Comey, and NSA director, Mike Rogers, on leaks to the press about Flynn. Nunes asked Comey if unauthorized disclosure of Fisa-derived information to the press would be a crime, a reference to the intercept of the Flynn-Kislyak conversations.
Afterward, Nunes again referred to Flynn in batting back criticism of his focus. Theres been one crime that has been committed, and that is the leaking of someones name, Nunes told reporters.
Along with his fellow committee Republican, Nunes warned Comey and Rogers that the leak of Flynns name was disinclining them to reauthorize the NSA and FBIs central 2017 legislative priority: the renewal of an expiring NSA surveillance authority. The Republicans told Comey and Rogers that renewing the legal provision was in jeopardy, in Trey Gowdys terms, absented a leak crackdown at the intelligence agencies, a move that would benefit Trump.
Comey and Rogers had to remind the House Republicans who oversee surveillance that the specific authority which the GOP supported even after Edward Snowden revealed its privacy implications on millions of Americans was unrelated to their concern about Flynn.
Flynns political persona after his firing from the DIA was a gift to Republicans. He portrayed himself as a martyr, cashiered by a dishonorable Obama administration for saying that Obama was soft on terror. With starrings on his shoulders, Flynns utility to the GOP accelerated after he implied Hillary Clinton was a criminal.( When you are given immunity, that means you probably perpetrated a crime, Flynn said last year of Clintons aides .)
Toward the end of his opening statement at the 20 March hearing, Nunes encouraged anyone who has information about these topics to come forward and speak to the House intelligence committee.
The next evening, according to the New York Times, Nunes received a bellow from his unidentified source, leading him to the White House, where he reviewed surveillance-relevant information compiled by Cohen-Watnick, Flynns former NSC and DIA aide. The next day, he uncovered it in public, implying that he was alerting the White House to its existence.
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