Since Monday, we have been haggling over the Nunes memo, a four page document which was drafted by Devon Nunus, the Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee and his staff, that allegedly cherry picks classified intelligence without having read the all the source material which is also classified,. the committee voted on straight party lines to release the memo under an obscure House rule. Then, along the same party lines, refused the Democratic rebuttal.
Schiff said the document is full of Republican talking points, with details culled from documents that the Justice Department had agreed to release to him and Nunes, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee. The committee is conducting its own investigation into Russia’s election interference, although Nunes had recused himself from that probe last August.
The ranking Democratic member Adam Schiff, has now charged that the memo that was sent to the White House for review has been changed in some way by Nunes.
“Upon our discovery that the document sent for public review had been secretly altered, the majority belatedly offered the minority the opportunity this evening to compare the document transmitted on Monday night by the Majority to the White House with the document made available to all members on January 18th,” Schiff wrote.
He concluded, “The White House, therefore, has been reviewing a document since Monday night that the Committee never approved for public release.”
Oh. That’s not good. And the changes weren’t corrections to the things which were wrong with it, either. Schiff said the changes were “substantive” and “material.”
During Monday’s hearing, Nunes refused to answer to the committee if he, or members of his staff, worked with the White House to draft the memo.
The transcript of the meeting, released the day after this story was initially published, shows Quigley asking “with the greatest respect” if the White House aided Nunes in any way, including consulting with him on the memo.
Nunes initially replied: “I would just answer, as far as I know, no.”
He continued, “And I would just also say that we are well aware the minority has not wanted to conduct this investigation by the public opposition to the subpoenas that we issued back in August that were clearly looking into matters of FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] abuse and other matters.” Quigley asked Nunes if that meant “none of the staff members that worked for the majority had any consultation, communication at all with the White House?” Nunes shut Quigley down: “The chair is not going to entertain–” after which Quigley yielded.
Considering Nunes’ history of conspiring with the White House to distract from all the Russian inquiries that precipitated Nunes recusing himself from the investigation, those are very fair questions.
Former White House ethics counsel Norm Eisen has warned that Nunes could be leaving himself open the obstruction of justice charges if, indeed, he did conspire with the White House in creating this memo to smear the FBI Russian investigation.
“Whoa,” Eisen wrote on Wednesday. “Nunes’s speech and debate clause Congressional immunity may not protect him from liability for conduct outside Congress.”
He added: “Depending on the facts, Nunes may have put himself in middle of a conspiracy to obstruct justice. He better beware: There r no secrets in this White House.”
The Congressional Immunity law states that members of the U.S. Congress can not be prosecuted while they are “attending a session of the body to which the member belongs, excluding an arrest for treason, breach of the peace, or a felony.”
The law also provides immunity from arrest or interrogation “for any speech or debate entered into during a legislative session.”
Neither of those provisions would seem to apply to members working with another branch of government to obstruct justice.
Last night MSNBC host Rachel Maddow detailed the lengths to which FBI and DoJ officials have gone to warn Republicans against releasing a memo of classified information assembled by Devin Nunes, and a new report of Donald Trump pressuring officials with questions about loyalty, like some tinpot despot.
As of the writing of this article, the White House has still not released the memo. Indications are that will happen some time tomorrow. Yeah Friday! Watch this space.