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House Russia investigation: What a contrast between leaders Nunes and Schiff

REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
House Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, right and Ranking Member Rep. Adam Schiff, left, speaking with the media on March 15.

I’m not sure how the Republicans got such a doofus as U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes of California as their leader on the House Intelligence Committee. His recent fumbles in the investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election have undermined any reasonable belief that the committee is seriously committed to finding out how much the Russians interfered and especially the even more sensational question of whether the Trump campaign colluded in such interference.

Nunes is in over his head and has lost the ability to convince fair-minded Americans that the committee is up to the task.

Poor Nunes is also disadvantaged by the contrast between his fumbling antics and the clear, sharp performance turned in over recent days by the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, also of California. If you didn’t catch Schiff on CNN’s “State of the Union” yesterday, you can watch his interview here, or read the transcript here.

Schiff was careful to avoid talking about anything he shouldn’t disclose, such as the content of any of the documents the committee has been reviewing. But he did point clearly to what he believes is the motive behind the recent crazy business — in which Nunes played courier between members of the White House staff and President Trump. Schiff seized on questions from CNN’s Jake Tapper to offer his understanding of what he called Trump’s “transparent” goal with regard to the investigation, which is distraction from the possible-Trump-campaign-collusion-with-Russia question to anything else including Trump’s false and unsupported claim that former President Obama wiretapped him.

I thought Trump had dropped that one, after pretty much every official with reason to know about it had testified publicly that they knew of no evidence of any such wiretapping. But Trump brought it back up over the weekend with tweets like this one:

When will Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd and @NBCNews start talking about the Obama SURVEILLANCE SCANDAL and stop with the Fake Trump/Russia story?

And this one:

It is the same Fake News Media that said there is “no path to victory for Trump” that is now pushing the phony Russia story. A total scam!

Trump is now the boss of the CIA and the FBI. Members of Trump’s party chair the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. If he has nothing to hide, why is he so worried about letting these investigations proceed? Schiff suggested an answer:

SCHIFF: I think part of the reason why that was done is this effort to deflect attention from the Russia investigation, to raise other issues, to effectively create a cloud through which the public cannot see what is at stake here.

And what is at stake here is a foreign intervention in our election, a very serious issue about whether U.S. persons were involved, an investigation that is being conducted by the FBI into possible [Russian] coordination with the Trump campaign.

That is really, I think, among the most serious business the country has to do right now. And the White House seems to be doing everything it can to point in other directions and say, do not look here, there is nothing to see here. 

JAKE TAPPER: And the big issue, of course, is whether or not there was collusion among members of the Trump campaign or surrounding the Trump campaign, Trump advisers. Can you say definitively that there was collusion, there were people affiliated with the Trump campaign who were working with Russians to time the release of damaging information about Hillary Clinton that had been hacked either from John Podesta or the DNC? 

SCHIFF: I don’t think we can say anything definitively at this point. We are still at the very early stage of the investigation. The only thing I can say is that it would be irresponsible for us not to get to the bottom of this. We really need to do — we really need to find out exactly what the Russians did, because one of the most important conclusions that the intelligence community reached is that they are going to do this again to the United States. They are doing it already in Europe. So, we can say, you know, conclusively this is something that needs to be thoroughly investigated. But it’s way premature to be reaching conclusions. 

Mr. President (me talking here): If you have nothing to hide, why not let the committee complete its investigation so those who don’t feel like taking your word for it will know that you have nothing to hide?

As I have occasionally done in the past, I’ll draft a statement that President Trump might adopt if he wanted to stop giving the impression that he has something terrible to hide. Something like:

My fellow Americans. Because of various disturbing reports you may have heard or read, some of you may be concerned by allegations or rumors that I or some members of my campaign may have colluded with Russia to influence last year’s election.

We did not. It would be reprehensible, disloyal, anti-American and criminal for Americans to collaborate with a foreign power in such a scheme, and I would surely have rejected and exposed any such effort. But it’s naïve to think that all of you would take my word for that. So I am instructing all of my staff, and urging all of my former campaign team, to cooperate fully with the official investigations of these issues.

I urge all members of the relevant congressional committees, regardless of party, to take all necessary steps to find the facts and report them to the citizens, for whom we work. If there is any indication of partisan interference with the goal of a full and fair investigation, I will join those voices of those who have called for an independent commission to be formed.

If necessary, I myself will testify honestly and fully under oath about this matter before such a commission. If I were to lie under oath about such a matter, it would be an impeachable offense. But believe me, I will not lie because I have nothing to hide.

Thank you.

Comments (25)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/03/2017 - 10:01 am.

    Nunes’s job

    is to prevent any effective investigation from taking place.
    Remember, he works for the President.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/03/2017 - 10:20 am.

    Phrased politely

    …I think it unlikely that Mr. Trump will issue such a statement, or that Mr. Bannon, Mr. Kushner, Ms. Trump, or any other ranking member of the White House staff will do so. The object of the current game is to direct our attention to shiny objects—any and all shiny objects—elsewhere. Mr. Schiff appears to be doing the public’s business. Mr. Nunes appears to be doing the business of Mr. Trump, or the Republican Party, or perhaps both, but not the business of the public.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 04/03/2017 - 12:10 pm.

      Not Very Well

      If Nunes is attempting to do Trump’s business, he’s not doing it very well. I don’t he could conspire his way out of a paper bag.

  3. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 04/03/2017 - 10:26 am.

    Don’t hold your breath

    waiting for Trump to adopt your suggested statement, Eric. You are a good writer, and we don’t want to lose you.

  4. Submitted by Ken Wedding on 04/03/2017 - 10:28 am.


    There are a notable number of them among the Rs in the national legislature (and a few Ds, as well). It’s part of the anti-intellectualism that has re-arisen in American politics.

    It’s probably time to go back and re-read Hoftsader’s book that I read as an undergraduate.

  5. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/03/2017 - 10:37 am.

    The resurgence of the Mayberry Machiavellis.

    Reveal “secret information” from White House sources to Nunes. get him to tease the secrets in a press conference, and then go to the White House to brief Trump on what he learned from the White House sources.

    Whooda thunk it was a phoney reveal ?

    Perhaps Nunes rode the turnip wagon all the way from California.

    He (and other credulous legislators) will be burned as needed by the administration to keep their agenda alive.

  6. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 04/03/2017 - 11:04 am.

    As Reality TV, the Nunes caper badly needed a producer and a director, maybe even a script doctor. You’d think that Trump–and this caper has all his fingerprints on it, he the Mastermind of media manipulation–would know how absolutely foolish he and Nunes looked. I mean, can’t the staffers in the White House just tell their boss about whatever? He’s in the office down the hall! He must think all of America is composed of idiots who can’t see the staging of this stupid charade.

    Let’s keep our eye on the ball through all this: What collusion was there between the Trump campaign and Russian interference with our 2016 Presidential election?

    • Submitted by Carrie Anderson on 04/04/2017 - 08:35 am.

      Trump’s M.O. to a T, for the most part

      For decades he would call media contacts to leak “great things” about himself. Sometimes he identified himself, but he often did it anonymously. His skills at exploiting people competing for his money were showcased on “reality” TV. But the limits of Trump’s range have become obvious. He certainly didn’t prepare very well for performing the lead role in a real-life government job.

      I agree that we must keep our eyes on the ball: the dead body count, the omissions by Flynn, Sessions, Carter, Kushner, et al. We also need to keep following the money trail. We cannot become complacent because this is not government as usual.

  7. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/03/2017 - 12:22 pm.

    Quis custodiet . . .

    If Rep. Nunes were in any deeper, the fish would have lights on their heads.

    Rep. Nunes is chair of the House Intelligence Committee, so there is a certain logic in having him “lead” the investigation. On the other hand, he was a member of President Trump’s transition team. If avoiding even the appearance of impropriety were still a factor, one would think he would remove himself from the investigation. Alternately, one would think Speaker Ryan would direct it. As it is, the integrity of the House investigation is more than a little suspect.

    I don’t know why there is such a lack of concern for appearances. Currying favor with the White House? That’s hardly appropriate. Playing to the base of Trump supporters? That speaks ill of either Congress (who shouldn’t allow such factors to enter into the process) or the base (possibly resentful into an investigation into foreign meddling with our election process).

  8. Submitted by Tim Smith on 04/03/2017 - 01:18 pm.

    move on

    whats with all the creepy fantasies about what Trump should say? Russia changed no votes,. lets get to work on jobs and wages and quit with the witch hunts and vast left wing conspiracies.

    • Submitted by Nick Foreman on 04/03/2017 - 04:41 pm.

      Like when the republicans spent years on

      Trying to reverse the Affordable Care act and nothing else. Or the years they spent on the silly non-issue of Obama’s birth certicate. Or when they bailed out the big banks in 2008 – no concern for the middle class or poor then or now. Their tax reform – more to the rich; their failed health “care” – more for the rich and less for the poor. Republicans don’t give a damn about workers’ jobs unless they make too much money that hurts the rich and corporations. The only capacity that they have is to convince many lower middle class people and angry whites to vote for them, even when they will see a tax cut of $20. That is a true right wing conspiracy.

    • Submitted by Nick Foreman on 04/03/2017 - 09:56 pm.

      Creepy fantasies? Talking about Bush or Trump?

      Love the Russians & Putin? Republicans have not supported job creation or higher wages for 20 years. Sadly poor white people fall for the joke and fund the rich. Talk about right wing conspiracies

    • Submitted by Robert Lilly on 04/10/2017 - 12:48 pm.


      Russian changed enough votes to get their man in. Prove me wrong.

  9. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 04/03/2017 - 01:53 pm.

    Full investigation….

    So far – no evidence of collusion between the trump campaign and Russia. This could turn out to be the Dems birther issue.

    Also – – Much evidence of the surveillance and unmasking and distribution of the trump campaign and transition.

    Bloomberg reports today….

    “The news about Rice also sheds light on the strange behavior of Nunes in the last two weeks. It emerged last week that he traveled to the White House last month, the night before he made an explosive allegation about Trump transition officials caught up in incidental surveillance. At the time he said he needed to go to the White House because the reports were only on a database for the executive branch. It now appears that he needed to view computer systems within the National Security Council that would include the logs of Rice’s requests to unmask U.S. persons.”

    This is the Susan Rice who spread the “fake news” about the Benghazi video that cause the attacks.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/03/2017 - 02:40 pm.

      If there were no contacts between Trump’s camp and the Russians (or other foreign entities unders surveillance) there would be no names for Susan Rice to “unmask”.

      So what is the “fake news” ?

      Didn’t Flynn contact the Russians multiple times on the day sanctions were announced? Didn’t Flynn break the law by not registering as a foreign agent ? Didn’t Flynn fail to report the money he made from his speaking events in Russia ? What about Manafort ? There is certainly more smoke in the first couple months of a term than in the whole 8 years of any other presidential term.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/03/2017 - 03:20 pm.

      Oh, No!

      The National Security adviser used lawful means to find out who was caught up in the NSA surveillance? Because they were in contact with foreign officials who were themselves the targets of surveillance? Oh, will this horror never end?

      Who spilled the beans on this, anyway? Bloomberg says it was an anonymous source. Gosh, it seems like only March 24, 2017 that President Trump said “I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources. They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there. Let their name be put out. A source says that Donald Trump is a horrible, horrible human being. Let them say it to my face. Let there be no more sources.”’

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 04/03/2017 - 05:17 pm.

      No Evidence?

      If a lack of evidence means don’t pursue it, I wonder why the GOP doesn’t apply that standard to ginned up accounts of voter fraud.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/03/2017 - 06:47 pm.

      Oh, and then there is this….


      Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel

      The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladi­mir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.

      (end quote)

      If you need a little more clarity on this, Eric Prince has a sister named Betsy, who happened to marry a guy named DeVos, and oddly enough that very same Betsy DeVos is now the head of the Education Department.

      Nothing to see here–ignore the smoke, I don’t see any flames, move along….nothing but patriotic Americans doing their best to MAGA.

  10. Submitted by Joe Musich on 04/03/2017 - 11:08 pm.

    Denial will …

    not change much of the information already public regarding Russian meddling and direct connections of Trump campaign personnel to Russian personnel. All of this affects the credibility of the very election until the truth is known to all of the American public. If there is fact collusion to affect the election it would demand a do over for lots of different legal reasons. This all falls in The if category but doubt and circumstance a plenty is present. This is far beyond a birther parallel. This is a potential corrupt national federal election with compliance with figures of another nation state who do not and I repeat do not have our national interests in mind. If it is all coincidence so be it but we do not know that unless a patient and methodical examination takes place.

  11. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/04/2017 - 07:28 am.

    Doesn’t look like that

    So Schiff “did point clearly to what he believes is the motive behind the recent crazy business — in which Nunes played courier between members of the White House staff and President Trump. Schiff seized on questions from CNN’s Jake Tapper to offer his understanding of what he called Trump’s “transparent” goal with regard to the investigation, which is distraction from the possible-Trump-campaign-collusion-with-Russia question to anything else including Trump’s false and unsupported claim that former President Obama wiretapped him.” So let’s translate: Rep. Schiff (and other Democrats) wishes that Trump is implicated but he has no proof of that whatsoever so he expresses his belief (or hope, really) in what Trump is doing based on Democrats’ wishes meaning that what he is saying has absolutely no meaning or weight. This is what is called “the clear, sharp performance” nowadays?

    Mr. Schiff cites intelligence community that came to the conclusion that the Russians “are going to do this again to the United States.” But we actually don’t even know what they are going to do because, apparently, we are still investigating what they did… Are we talking about publishing fake news? Or hacking Podesta’s e-mail that he practically left open for any computer savvy high school freshman? And what are we going to do about it now? Bomb Moscow? When we haven’t done anything after Russia grabbed Crimea and helped Assad survive killing thousands of people in the process… On the other hand, I thought that Obama punished those Russians before he left the office so they would never dare do it again…

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/04/2017 - 03:51 pm.

      The intelligence agencies

      are not investigating -whether- the Russians tried to influence our elections (which involves influences how people vote as well as altering their votes after the fact).
      They are trying to find out exactly what the Russians did (and which Russian agencies did it) and how they did it, to prevent them from doing it again.

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/05/2017 - 07:26 am.


        Influencing elections includes influencing how people vote – I can’t disagree with that. So, as I have pointed out before, Putin’s statement expressing hatred for Hillary could have, in theory, influenced how people voted and therefore elections because I am sure there are people in America who like Putin… Would it be illegal, under American law, for Putin to say that? I don’t think so… So if our intelligence still doesn’t know what the Russians did, maybe we should stop talking about influencing our elections until they know… But I am sure it would help if Democrats stop stealing debate questions or undermining one of their primary candidates… Then Wikileaks will have nothing to expose!

        In all seriousness, I am beginning to lose track who investigate who and for what. Democrats want to investigate Russian influence but that is not really important to them without finding Trump’s collusion with Putin (in fact, a sign of that would have been Trump’s helping Putin in something, and I am not aware of anything of this nature). Republicans want to investigate the leaks and surveillance. Of course, just a year ago, the roles were reversed: Republicans wanted to talk about Democrats’ and Hillary’s poor ethics and wrongdoings and Democrats wanted to change the subject to Wikileaks and Putin. Can we all stop this silly exercise?

    • Submitted by Nick Foreman on 04/04/2017 - 04:33 pm.

      With your background

      I would expect you to understand the history and actions of Russia from its beginning. Capable of doing anything to destroy other nations. See East Germany, Poland, Crimea, Romania, Ukraine, etc,etc,etc. Zero values, zero respect for life, zero freedom

  12. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 04/04/2017 - 01:52 pm.

    Even before he was sworn in as President, Donald Trump had people on his staff get through to the Russians that they shouldn’t take seriously Obama’s December sanctions for their interference in our 2016 election: Gen. Flynn’s “sin” was talking multiple times to the Russian ambassador within hours of Obama’s actions, and about sanctions.
    That was illegal for Flynn to do. It’s being investigated by the FBI as a crime (doing international diplomacy without being part of the current government, which neither Flynn nor Trump was in December 2016).

    Simplists on the GOP ideological gamut who reduce the Russian attempts to influence our elections to votes cast are either ignorant of what’s going on, or they’re playing a diversionary game with us.

    Nobody cares what was in the Clinton campaign chief’s emails (hacked by the Russians and sold to Wikileaks for slow dribbling out in daily “leaks”) because there was nothing but internal Clinton campaign strategy talk and gossip. No criminal activity within the Clinton campaign (I don’t care what Debbie Wasserman was doing; she was not part of Clinton’s campaign and what’s alleged of her actions targeted a fellow Democrat, Bernie Sanders). Nothing there!

    But what’s a product of Russian cyber ingenuity–and gross distortion of our electoral system–was all the fake news spread on social media and to “alt-right” and other fly-by-night “news” sources. The wild stories spread about Hillary Clinton, the slanders, etc., heavily Russian. Just like what’ they’ve done before in Europe. Russian under Putin can’t stand the idea of democracy.

    It is unbearably sad–SAD!–that our current President is so naive, and so desperately ignorant, that he believes a lot of that right-wing conspiracy-theory “fake news” and spreads it. He’s quite good at spreading lies.

    So Trump and his guys got caught as secondaries while our US intelligence agencies were tapping foreigners. That’s not news, and it’s not surreptitious and it’s not illegal. Happens all the time. You talk to somebody who’s liable to be tapped, you’re recorded! Duh! The arrogance here is Trump thinking he’s above it all. Above the law.

    As for information being spread among our dozens of US intelligence agencies: One of the big failings brought to light by 9/11 investigations was that our intelligence agencies didn’t share stuff with each other; they had walls of secrecy where, say, the
    cia would know something but keep the FBI and NSA in the dark about it. What is so awful about these agencies today sharing national security information? IOt’s what they should be doping.

    And nobody, so far, has leaked anything except the kid in the White House who works for NSC, who leaked to Nunes, under Trump’s direction.

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