Why did Devin Nunes cancel Tuesday’s House Intelligence open hearing?
Answer: wild goose chase
[Contd. from here.]
One possibility on Nunes cancelling tomorrow’s scheduled open hearing with Brennan, Clapper, and Yates: to steer the committee away from Trump-Russia and toward a non-issue: “incidental surveillance.”
Nunes’s latest revelation is really no revelation at all. We knew that incidental surveillance of US individuals at Trump Tower and in the White House may have occurred under the general operation of monitoring Russian officials’ relationships with such individuals. It is most likely impossible to not have some form of collateral surveillance when a surveillance target meets with a non-target. Yet last Wednesday Nunes called a press conference and said that US spy agencies had “incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.” Nothing new there. If any part of USIC was monitoring either Russian nationals or US nationals who might be under suspicion — and there are a few (Flynn would be the exemplar) — necessarily incidental surveillance would occur. Impossible to prevent.
However, Nunes is acting like this is an “ah-hah” moment, and he may be trying to milk it for all it’s worth by again speaking to Comey and Rogers. Comey and Rogers may not reveal much more than they have already revealed — especially in light of what appears to be Nunes’s “surrogate” status. Nunes has become de facto an agent of the WH. His briefing of Trump tothe exclusion of his own committee is evidence of that. But Nunes wants to hammer away at the idea of incidental surveillance and “unmasking.” He and fellow Republican Intel Committee member Gowdy will attempt to grill Comey about how Flynn was unmasked and who else might have been. Essentially, that’s all he and the other Trump loyalists can do. They want another shot at pressuring the FBI into what effectively would be a counter-counter-intelligence operation against leakers. In other words, the real issue of collaboration with Russia is being sidelined to go on a wild goose chase.
The harm of Russian interference and possible treason is being displaced by a counter-investigation that has almost no significance. There is no direct threat involving incidental surveillance. Nor is it a new concept.
Nunes cancelled a highly relevant House Intel hearing with three officials, one of whom (former interim AG Yates) did a very close read on Flynn, and instead seems to be trying to recast the Russian interference investigation into an unwarranted spying investigation.
Someone has to come forward — Schiff — also on the House Committee — who knows a lot about procedure and the FBI, or Warner (Senate Intel) — and say that incidental surveillance is a complete non-issue. The fact that the president or his associates become elements in legitimate surveillance is completely beside the point. They are not and should not be immune from incidental or collateral surveillance. No one is.
And the investigation cannot devolve into a “Who unmasked Flynn?” investigation. The entire Justice Department knew he was lying about Kislyak. Who leaked what and when is a minor detail and may be an issue for the FBI, but not for the House Intelligence Committee.
Replacing the Tuesday open hearing (Clapper, Brennan, Yates to testify) with a closed hearing with Comey and Rogers can be interpreted as an attempt by Nunes and fellow Republicans to turn the Russian investigation into a counter-investigation of relatively inconsequential actions. The precise procedures involved in the revelation that Flynn lied do not change the fabric of democracy. Russian interference in the election (with possibly US citizens’ help) does.
And the only reason why the Comey-Rogers hearing will be closed is to suppress publicity. This secrecy is purely for the benefit of the Trump administration — yet another sign of Nunes’s partiality.