Devin Nunes: Informant Stories in NYT and WaPo 'the Mother of all Leaks'
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on Sunday called reports regarding an FBI informant’s alleged interactions with members of the Trump campaign "the mother of all leaks,” saying that he won't have any more meetings with the Department of Justice (DOJ) until they stop leaking and hand over the documents he's seeking. "It's over," he told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo on “Sunday Morning Futures.”
The California congressman subpoenaed the DOJ earlier this month, asking the agency to turn over documents concerning an "informant" in the Russia investigation. Rather than comply with the request, the agency has stonewalled the committee, saying the results could put the informant in harm’s way. Nunes and House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) had what they called a "productive" meeting with officials at the DOJ earlier this month and were slated to meet with the officials again on Friday to settle the dispute.
"We had what I thought was a productive meeting, and then after that meeting, they've done nothing but leak and leak and leak," Nunes said. "Now, we don't know exactly who it is at the Department of Justice or FBI... but we're not going to go to another meeting where we don't get documents and then the meeting leaks out."
"They continue to leak out things about this informant and we don't know if there's one informant of more informants because there's so much out there now," said Nunes. It's really getting tough to follow and all we're asking for is give us the documentation that you used to start this investigation."
He told Bartiromo that the events of Friday night should make people "very suspicious," and all but accused the DOJ of trying to set him up.
"They were trying to get Mr. Gowdy and I to go on Friday to the Department of Justice for supposedly another briefing," he explained. They decided not to go when they found out that the DOJ had already decided not to hand over the documents, he said.
"If you look what happened on Friday night -- probably the mother of all leaks of all time to two major newspapers that came out late Friday night." Nunes explained, referring to the New York Times article that disclosed how the FBI had sent an informant to meet with Trump campaign advisors George Papadopoulos and Carter Page during the 2016 campaign. The Times didn't name the source, but described him as “an American academic who teaches in Britain.” The informant (or agent provocateur as some are calling him) is widely believed to be Cambridge professor Stefan Halper. Additionally, the Washington Post reported Friday night that the informant met with the Trump campaign’s co-chairman Sam Clovis to discuss China.
"Had Mr. Gowdy and I went to that meeting, you can bet they would have tried to pin that on us," Nunes charged.
Many liberals in the media have tried to shift blame to Republicans over the weekend anyway -- foremost among them Lawfare blog editor-in-chief (and James Comey pal) Benjamin Wittes -- even though the deep state started leaking details about the informant to the media over two weeks ago.
"There were two mainstream media outlets [NYT and WaPo] on Friday night that had lots and lots and lots of details," Nunes told Bartiromo, adding that there was no way to confirm whether the leaks are true without seeing the documents the DOJ is withholding.
“If any of that is true – if they ran a spy ring or an informant ring and they were paying people within the Trump campaign – if any of that is true, that is an absolute red line," he said, pointing out that most honest people wouldn't appreciate having their taxpayer dollars going to fund a government spy ring against a political campaign.
"You can’t do this to political campaigns!" he continued.
Nunes said: "If they paid someone -- it's an absolute red line and this is over with. I don't know to say this -- there is no possible way that we should be allowing -- even if it was legal! We should never allow this in our country. Congress should not allow for anything like this to ever occur again to any political campaign if it in fact happened, which is why -- I'll say again -- all they gottta do is provide us the documentation. If they didn't do anything like that -- provide us the documents so we can verify it."
The House Intel chairman also called the whole Russia collusion narrative "a scam" that involved "real FISA abuse."
And the timeline, according to Nunes, suggests that the Obama White House got the ball rolling on the "scam" in the spring of 2016.
"We know the FBI briefed the highest levels of the Obama administration at the White House in the Spring of 2016, he explained. "Shortly after that, you have Mr. Steele that gets going -- he's being paid by the Clinton campaign secretly -- he's also meeting with the FBI. He's digging up what ends up being totally phony dirt, by the way," Nunes added, pointing out that Steele claims the dirt was given to him by the Russians.
"If anyone is looking for collusion between the Russians and a political party, all they have to do is figure out if, in fact, Christopher Steele talked to Russians," he said.
President Trump on Sunday said on Twitter that he would officially demand on Monday that "the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes - and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!"
DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein put out the following statements in response to the president's tweet: