Nunes keeps Trump dossier dirt spilling onto Democrats

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

On two fronts, Rep. Devin Nunes has shifted the Rus­sia de­bate in Washington fur­ther away from President Trump and closer to Democrats.

He ex­posed the prac­tice of “un­mask­ing” by Obama aides and flushed out the source of pay­ments for the scan­dalous anti-Trump dossier that drove the Rus­sia col­lu­sion nar­ra­tive.

The Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can’s first tac­tic: He trav­eled to the Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fice Build­ing and viewed ev­i­dence that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion had “un­masked” the con­cealed names of Trump as­so­ciates in highly classified in­tel­li­gence re­ports dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign.

The chair­man of the House Per­ma­nent Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence talked pub­licly about his dis­cov­ery to much de­ri­sion from Democrats and Washington’s press corps. The un­mask­ing sug­gested that the Obama White House was spy­ing on a politi­cal foe through its le­gal right to un­mask the iden­ti­ties of peo­ple un­in­ten­tion­ally swept up in surveil­lance op­er­a­tions.

An ad­vo­cacy group filed a com­plaint about his dis­clo­sure with the Of­fice of Con­gres­sional Ethics. Mr. Nunes re­sponded by re­mov­ing him­self as the over­seer of the com­mit­tee’s Rus­sia probe.

But his legacy lives on. Both the Se­nate and House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tees have sum­moned former Obama aides as wit­nesses. It turns out that Sa­man­tha Power, as am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions, made hun­dreds of un­mask­ing re­quests, Fox News re­ported.

Adding in­trigue to her re­search, she told the com­mit­tee that other peo­ple did some of the un­mask­ings in her name.

The com­mit­tee sub­poe­naed doc­u­ments con­cern­ing Ms. Power, former Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Su­san E. Rice and former CIA Direc­tor John O. Bren­nan. All deny that they were spy­ing on Mr. Trump.

Mr. Nunes’ sec­ond tac­tic brought the most im­me­di­ately re­sult: He flushed out the iden­ti­ties — long kept se­cret — of some of the fi­nan­cial back­ers for the no­to­ri­ous Trump dossier that has fed the Democrats’ Rus­sia col­lu­sion charges for months.

He did it by sign­ing a sub­poena for the bank records of Fu­sion GPS, the lib­eral op­po­si­tion re­search firm that hired the dossier writer, former Bri­tish spy Christo­pher Steele.

The Nunes sub­poena touched off a chain of events.

Fu­sion GPS went to U.S. Dis­trict Court on Oct. 20 and asked a judge to block the sub­poena. That move trig­gered the first un­mask­ing of the dossier’s fi­nancier.

On Tues­day, the law firm Perkins Coie de­cided it was time to fess up. It filed a let­ter, writ­ten to Fu­sion’s at­tor­neys, ac­knowl­edg­ing that Perkins had hired Fu­sion with money from the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and the Hil­lary Clin­ton cam­paign.

Perkins, whose at­tor­ney Marc E. Elias is the Clin­ton cam­paign’s general coun­sel, urged Fu­sion to lift the con­fi­den­tial­ity of other clients who funded the dossier.

The let­ter said the flow of money to Fu­sion started in April 2016 and ended be­fore the Nov. 8 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Mr. Steele be­gan writ­ing his memos in June. He con­tin­ued to write and sub­mit dossier memos up un­til De­cem­ber, mean­ing there are other mon­ey­men for whom Mr. Nunes would like names.

Be­cause Fu­sion also has Rus­sian clients, some Repub­li­cans have won­dered whether any­one in Moscow also paid Mr. Steele’s bills. There has been no proof, to date.

Washington learned of another fun­der. For months, news re­ports said the first en­tity to hire Fu­sion to con­duct Trump op­po­si­tion re­search was a Repub­li­can.

The Washington Free Bea­con on Fri­day ac­knowl­edged that it had hired Fu­sion to col­lect in­for­ma­tion from pub­licly avail­able sources. It said the ar­range­ment stopped well be­fore Fu­sion went to Democrats and re­ceived money to pay Mr. Steele.

The Free Bea­con, a snappy con­ser­va­tive news web­site filled with in­ves­tiga­tive and hu­mor­ous post­ings, is funded by Paul Singer, a Repub­li­can and big cam­paign donor. He is also anti-Trump. He backed Sen. Marco Ru­bio of Florida in the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial pri­mary race.

Mr. Nunes’ moves have clearly irked Democrats, who want the in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­fined to sus­pected Repub­li­can co­or­di­na­tion with Rus­sian elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence. The Se­nate and House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tees so far have found no con­firmed ev­i­dence of Trump col­lu­sion.

Fu­sion’s at­tor­neys, the Washington firm Zuck­er­man Spaeder LLP, filed court ar­gu­ments at­tack­ing the con­gress­man’s “fish­ing ex­pe­di­tion.”

They said he had no power to act be­cause he re­cused him­self from the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion. They called his sub­poena sig­na­ture “not part of le­git­i­mate leg­isla­tive ac­tiv­ity” and an ex­er­cise of “co­er­cive power.”

“The Trump dossier ap­pears to have deeply up­set President Trump and some of his al­lies, in­clud­ing Mr. Nunes, who served on President Trump’s cam­paign,” the Fu­sion at­tor­neys said.

Posted in full by Buz­zFeed, the dossier ac­cuses Mr. Trump of sala­cious con­duct with pros­ti­tutes in a Moscow ho­tel, a long quid pro quo re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence and bribe-pay­ing in Asia. None of those charges has been con­firmed pub­licly.

Mr. Nunes’ chief con­gres­sional critic is Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Cal­i­for­nia, the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee’s top Demo­crat. Mr. Schiff is a big fan of Mr. Steele’s and has re­peated his charges in Congress and on TV.

In­ter­viewed last week by CNN’s Chris Cuomo, Mr. Schiff said Mr. Nunes is just try­ing to change the sub­ject.

“I think, Chris, at the end of the day, what this is about is a tech­nique you see of­ten in crim­i­nal cases where the facts are re­ally bad for the de­fen­dant, there’s an ef­fort to put the govern­ment on trial,” Mr. Schiff said. “So I think Mr. Nunes and the president want to put the govern­ment on trial be­cause they don’t want to look at the facts im­pli­cat­ing the White House.”

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