Probe Nunes for clas­si­fied leaks

The Denver Post - - OPINION -

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., on Mon­day de­nounced what he de­scribed as the il­le­gal leak of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing con­ver­sa­tions be­tween as­so­ciates of Don­ald Trump and Rus­sian of­fi­cials. He in­sisted that those who de­scribed those con­tacts to the press be tracked down and pros­e­cuted. He de­manded that FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey con­firm that such rev­e­la­tions “vi­o­late . . . a sec­tion of

Nunes the Es­pi­onage Act that crim­i­nal­izes the dis­clo­sure of in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing the com­mu­ni­ca­tion and in­tel­li­gence ac­tiv­i­ties of the United States.”

Forty-eight hours later, Nunes him­self held a news con­fer­ence in which he cited a con­fi­den­tial source to de­scribe what clearly ap­peared to be clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion about in­ter­cepted com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­volv­ing Trump as­so­ciates. He did this out­side the White House, where he had rushed to brief the pres­i­dent about the in­ter­cepts - even though the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee he chairs is sup­posed to be in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Trump cam­paign’s pos­si­ble con­nec­tions with Rus­sia.

We’ve said be­fore that it was doubt­ful that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion headed by Nunes into Rus­sia’s in­ter­fer­ence in the elec­tion could be ad­e­quate or cred­i­ble. The chair­man’s con­tra­dic­tory and clown­ish grand­stand­ing makes that a cer­tainty. His com­mit­tee’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion should be halted im­me­di­ately - and Nunes de­serves to be sub­ject to the same leak­ing probe he de­manded for the pre­vi­ous dis­clo­sures.

Nunes’s be­hav­ior pro­voked head-scratch­ing from Repub­li­can col­leagues, in ad­di­tion to de­nun­ci­a­tions from Democrats; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called it “bizarre.” But there was noth­ing re­ally ir­ra­tional about the rep­re­sen­ta­tive’s ac­tions: He was sim­ply do­ing every­thing in his power to pro­tect Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, for whom he has be­come a fierce, if er­ratic, guard dog. In de­nounc­ing leaks Mon­day, Nunes was do­ing his best to de­flect at­ten­tion from what ap­pears to be a sub­stan­tial on­go­ing FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether mem­bers of the Trump cam­paign col­luded with Rus­sia.

In of­fer­ing his own leak Wed­nes­day, Nunes was try­ing to pro­vide cover for Trump’s false claim that his cam­paign had been wire­tapped on or­ders of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama - a state­ment that Comey flatly de­scribed as ground­less. Un­sur­pris­ingly, Trump de­clared hours later - again, falsely that Nunes had proved him right.

In fact, as Nunes him­self ac­knowl­edged, the in­ter­cepts he de­scribed were le­gal and ap­pro­pri­ate, the re­sult of rou­tine sur­veil­lance of for­eign tar­gets, or that were ap­proved by a se­cret court. The iden­ti­ties of the Amer­i­cans who were picked up in the con­ver­sa­tions were mostly masked Nunes said he was able to fig­ure out they were Trump as­so­ciates be­cause of the con­text. Quite pos­si­bly, the chair­man re­vealed the same in­tel­li­gence that sources de­scribed to The Post when it re­ported on con­ver­sa­tions be­tween Michael Flynn, then Trump’s nom­i­nee for na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, and Rus­sian Am­bas­sador Sergey Kislyak - a dis­clo­sure Nunes tarred as crim­i­nal.

Nunes’s an­tics serve only to un­der­line the ur­gency of a se­ri­ous, non­par­ti­san and un­com­pro­mis­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sia’s in­ter­fer­ence in the elec­tion and any con­tacts be­tween Moscow’s agents and the Trump cam­paign. The Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, which is also con­duct­ing a probe, may make a use­ful con­tri­bu­tion, but as McCain said, “no longer does the Congress have the cred­i­bil­ity to han­dle this alone.” It is time to dis­cuss the for­ma­tion of an in­de­pen­dent, non­par­ti­san com­mis­sion with full sub­poena power, like those that in­ves­ti­gated the at­tacks of 9/11 and the in­tel­li­gence fail­ures in Iraq. In the mean­time, House lead­ers should put an end to the em­bar­rass­ing trav­esty be­ing di­rected by Nunes.

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