Mar 31, 2017

Columnist accuses Devin Nunes of misleading him

J Scott Applewhite / AP

Bloomberg's Eli Lake has a revealing account of his interactions this past week with House Intelligence chair Devin Nunes.

Here's the key section of Lake's piece:

Last week, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Devin Nunes, announced dozens of intelligence reports that inappropriately included details on President Donald Trump's transition. This week, he told me that his source for that information was an intelligence official, not a White House staffer.

It turns out, he misled me. The New York Times reported Thursday that Nunes had two sources, and both worked for the White House. This distinction is important because it raises questions about the independence of the congressional investigation Nunes is leading, which may lead to officials at the White House.

The chairman told me Thursday that elements of the Times story were inaccurate. But he acknowledged: "I did use the White House to help to confirm what I already knew from other sources." This is a body blow for Nunes, who presented his findings last week as if they were surprising to the White House.

Why this matters: Nunes still insists he can oversee an independent investigation that covers the Trump campaign and Russia, but that assertion is losing credibility by the day. Lake, an influential foreign policy columnist, had given Nunes the benefit of the doubt. Nunes burned him and is running out of allies on Capitol Hill.

Where's Paul Ryan on this? For now at least, Ryan is sticking by Nunes. On Thursday evening I asked his spokeswoman AshLee Strong if the Speaker had changed his view on the need for Nunes to recuse himself. "The Speaker doesn't know the source of the disclosure to Chairman Nunes," she replied via email. "I'd refer you to the committee for more. As the Speaker said this morning, the chairman has his full confidence."

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