I got a call from a friend yesterday, asking what I made of House Intelligence chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) and how he winged his way off to the White House, telling Trump about information he'd been given, and then holding a press conference about it all afterwards.
What I made of it??
I don't freaking know. I don't have a flying idea. But then, I'm not alone, given that all the career experts from the House and Senate and the FBI and national intelligence who I watched and read didn't know what to make of it either. On just about every level.
I mean, even starting with why on earth Devin Nunes -- by himself -- got information, and not also the ranking Democrat on the committee which is standard procedure?
And Nunes wasn't even clear in his press conference about what he then went and told Trump, contradicting himself about four times about if the president was recorded, or wasn't, but may have been referenced, though he wasn't, but could have been, and that it has nothing to do with the investigation anyway, though there's no need to call for a new hearing because his committee as already investigating it, however he'll know more on Friday when the evidence is in.
So, he doesn't even have the evidence yet?
And even that, of course, doesn't even touch on the core question of why on earth he did it. And by "it," even that covers a multitude of layers. Like "it" being either going to Paul Ryan first, or heading to the White House, or doing so without the ranking Democrat or holding the press conference. Take your pick.
The only theories that come closest to making sense -- though "closest" is a relative term -- is that it was related to Nunes having no experience in the field of intelligence before being appointed chairman, and having been on the transition team for Trump, and was contacted by a whistleblower or maybe even the White House itself and was subsequently directed by someone to distract attention away from not only how bad the hearing was going for Trump but also the disastrous reports that day from the A.P. about former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort having been paid $10 million by Russian oligarchs, making Manafort an unregistered foreign agent which he lied about.
But even that whirlwind -- if it was in the range of true -- still doesn't explain the "why" Mr. Nunes did not include his ranking Democratic partner on the committee Adam Schiff once he got the information, or why in the world he even did go to the White House.
So, what do I make of it? Seriously????? If intelligence experts at this are flummoxed, I don't stand a chance.
And even that's before even adding into the mix that on the opening day of the committee hearing, pretty much the only thing that Republicans focused on was not the subject of the hearings at all, which was Russia, but that information had been leaked -- and now here is the chair of the committee not only leaking information...but actually leaking classified information!! (No, what he leaked wasn't very detailed, but when you're dealing with classified information, the concept of "not very detailed" isn't on the table.)
Is it possible that there's a perfectly good explanation for this, for which everyone will say, "Ohhhh, okay, I get it now, that makes sense, fair enough, good for him"? I'm tempted to say no, there's not. It's that loony from every angle. But reality tells us that, sure, something reasonable is "possible." But possible isn't probable, or likely.
Keep in mind, too, that not only did Devin Nunes still insist that there's no evidence that Trump was wiretapped, but there's nothing illegal or even wrong with intelligence services having foreign espionage targets under surveillance and if an American citizen participates in those conversations they can still be recorded. (Their names are supposed to be redacted in transcripts, although there are exceptions to that.) But this isn't at issue. So -- what in heaven's name is going on? Hey, I don't know.
I would suggest, mind you, that it doesn't seem good for Trump, which I say for many reasons, not the least of which is that when Trump was asked later if he felt that what he was told had "vindicated" him, he did not answer, "Yes, absolutely, completely vindicated 100 percent!! It was all fake news. Fake, fake, fake news!! Terrible people. Fully vindicated!!," which is what we'd expect from Trump if the information even came within spitting distance of actually vindicating him -- but instead, he merely half-heartedly answered, "Partially vindicated." And then repeated that again, reinforcing it half-heartedly. "Partially vindicated."
Of course, the very important thing to remember is -- this hearing isn't even about "vindicating" Trump's tweets that he was wiretapped by President Obama, which everyone has refuted...including Devin Nunes. The hearing is looking into Russian involvement in the U.S. presidential election and possible collusion by the Trump campaign.
So...no, I don't have a clue what went on today.
The only thing that I feel comfortable saying about Devin Nunes's actions today is that "Intelligence Committee" is beginning to seem like it's mis-named.