“AND I CAN’T WAIT TO WATCH IT”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jan. 29, 2019) — In a January 27 interview with “Sunday Morning Futures” host Maria Bartiromo, former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said that after committee Republicans conducted an investigation into possible “collusion” between members of the Trump campaign and “Russians,” as has been alleged by an FBI probe ostensibly begun in July 2016, they concluded that longtime Trump acquaintance and political operative Roger Stone “wasn’t colluding with the Russians.”
Stone was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury hearing evidence in the probe, assumed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in May 2017. On Friday, during a partial government shutdown affecting the agency to the point where Director Christopher Wray expressed “anger” over the political impasse which caused it, Stone’s home was reportedly surrounded at approximately 6:00 a.m. by 29 FBI armed agents with night-vision goggles to effect his arrest.
Mueller was hired to explore to what extent, if any, Russian operatives interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections and whether or not anyone from the Trump campaign “colluded” with Russians to gain an advantage over Democrat contender Hillary Clinton.
Democrats, in the minority on all congressional committees until the 116th Congress was seated early this month, were dissatisfied with the announced findings of the Nunes-led probe and pledged to continue their own investigation. Their findings have not been made public. Now leading the committee is Democrat Adam Schiff, who on Friday said he will provide transcripts to Mueller’s office from all private interviews the committee conducted of potential witnesses in the Russia probe.
Stone’s arraignment is Tuesday morning in Washington, DC, where he plans to plead “not guilty” to all seven charges, he said in a number of interviews since his arrest.
Many have criticized Mueller for hiring prosecutors with known ties to Democrats, while congressional Democrats generally approve of the probe and have vowed to “protect Mueller” until his work is completed. On Monday night, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker told reporters that he believes the investigation is winding down and that he looks forward to reviewing Mueller’s report.
On Sunday Nunes contended that Mueller’s investigators “must be embarrassed that they actually have to come to House Republicans in order to have us give them the information, the transcripts, so that they go and get Roger Stone on a process crime that occurred in 2017 that Roger Stone himself is going to fight. The process of discovery is going to be fascinating in this case, and I can’t wait to watch it.”
Bartiromo then asked the significance of the Trump-Russia “dossier,” paid for by the Clinton campaign and DNC and used to obtain four FISA warrants on then-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. “The FBI did not mention a connection to the DNC or Clinton,” she said, referring to the warrant applications.
Nunes said that “the intelligence services in this country” were used to “target the Trump campaign,” with DOJ official Bruce Ohr “acting like some kind of secret agency meeting with this Clinton ‘oppo’ guy,” referring to dossier author Christopher Steele. Ohr provided Steele’s information to the DOJ and FBI, Nunes said. “So I’m happy that now DOJ is going to take seriously lying to Congress…they need to start with themselves. They need to start with the former leadership of the Department of Justice and the FBI. If I were them, if you want to see lying to Congress, I would start with Strzok and Page…and I would also go after the top leadership of the DOJ and FBI at the time.”
Ohr was demoted twice after it was discovered he did not immediately disclose that his wife Nellie was working on the Steele dossier, commissioned by the DNC and Clinton campaign indirectly through law firm Perkins Coie and private company Fusion GPS.
Steele was said to have expressed a particular animus toward Trump.
Recently-leaked testimony from Ohr’s closed-door sessions with members of Congress last summer revealed that Ohr testified that he warned the DOJ and FBI officials with whom he spoke in 2016 that the dossier was unverified. In public testimony in 2017, former FBI Director testified that the dossier was “salacious and unverified.”
“Now those two people work for Robert Mueller,” Bartiromo responded, referring to Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, high-ranking FBI officials who exchanged thousands of text messages in 2016 and 2017 indicating their dislike of Trump and an apparent plan to remove him from office if he were to win the presidency.
“Ohhhh, yes, Maria, very good point that the media choose to ignore…” Nunes responded with a slight smile. Both Page and Strzok worked on the Clinton private email server investigation, then turned their attention to investigating the Trump campaign, later joining Mueller after he was hired in May 2017 to continue that which the FBI began.
“They got the information from Bruce Ohr,” Nunes said of the pair, who no longer work for the FBI. Page resigned in May, while Strzok was fired in August following a “lengthy internal investigation.”
Nunes stressed that Page, Strzok and Ohr were in the “chain of custody” of the unverified dossier information. He contended that it was the Clinton campaign which was “colluding with Russians.”
Bartiromo asked if attorney general nominee William Barr or Mueller will investigate the Clinton campaign, to which Nunes said, in part, “Mueller definitely won’t do it…Our investigation is not over; we continue to get more information; the walls continue to close in…We don’t even know what Mueller’s doing. We haven’t seen the ‘scope’ memo…I think it’s possible that the Steele dossier, the Clinton ‘dirt'” is what’s in that scope memo that they refuse to make public to the American people and they refuse to brief Congress on.”
Schiff, for his part, has expressed a desire to have the committee he now chairs conduct investigations into the Trump Organization’s “financial issues” as they might intersect with Russia. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has accused Nunes of leading the committee in a way that “bordered on criminal,” according to Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker last month.
When Bartiromo asked, “Will you be making criminal referrals?” Nunes responded, “I think the walls are closing in. We’re getting closer and closer and closer to the people that need to be held responsible for this…” He reminded Bartiromo that Republicans no longer control House committees but nevertheless will “continue to conduct interviews” and “be transparent with the American people on this.”
There were two memos issued by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to Mueller as to what the “scope” of Mueller’s investigation would entail. The first was issued the day Mueller was hired, May 16, 2017, while the second, dated August 2, 2017, has been provided to Congress only in heavily-redacted form.
“The ‘scope’ memo” outlines why Mueller was hired,” Bartiromo quoted Nunes as having said, to which Nunes responded that “we have no idea” what is contained in the second “scope” memo. “I’m just speculating here, but I believe it’s very possible that they used uncorroborated information that came from the Clinton campaign and that could be in there as part of what they told the special counsel to do, which would be a major, major problem.”
“‘Major problem’ being against the law?” Bartiromo asked, although declaratively.
“Well, why would you not be public about this?” Nunes responded, describing Mueller’s indictments as “nice story-telling” and “like a spy novel.”
“There’s no evidence of collusion with Russia,” Nunes said of the Trump campaign, despite the “process-crime” indictments Mueller has secured on former Trump campaign aides Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Democrats, too, have claimed that “the walls are closing in” on Trump at various stages of the Mueller investigation.