A couple of days ago, Devin Nunes dismissed Democratic calls for him to recuse himself. He said that the Democrats oppose him because he is so "effective." If he were an effective investigator
of Donald Trump, no-one would object to his work. Instead, he has been -- almost by his own admission -- an effective Trump protector
Astonishingly, even National Review
is asking Devin Nunes to step down.
Nunes isn’t Donald Trump’s lawyer. He’s not Trump’s spokesperson. It’s not his job to clean up Trump’s Twitter mess. The House Intelligence Committee faces the challenge of conducting an investigation that has at least some degree of bipartisan credibility. It’s not “success” for Nunes to produce a report that plays great on Fox News while his Democratic counterpart, Adam Schiff, writes a dissenting document for Rachel Maddow.
That paragraph is the best thing to come out of the National Review since they stopped publishing John Simon's hilariously bitchy film criticism. (Simon is still writing
: "One morning, Lord Byron woke up and found himself famous.
One more recent morning, we awoke and found ourselves infamous: Donald J. Trump
had been elected President. Only an atom bomb would be a worse alarm clock.")
I have a few points to make about the Nunes sub-scandal -- call it "Devin's Gate" -- that no-one else seems eager to make. But before we get to all of that, we must talk about Louise Mensch
, on whom I've been crushing for a while now.
She noticed me!
At least, she seems to have noticed something I wrote.
(Nobody call me: I want to keep the line free. Yes, I know: Play it cool; don't seem too anxious. Should I buy Tic-Tacs, or has the Groper-in-Chief spoiled that move for all time?)
In this piece on Boris Ephsteyn
, she writes:
I cannot confirm whether Mr. Epshteyn is, as has been speculated about, ‘Source E’ in the Steele dossier, but he fits the description given of that source. What I can report is that sources stated Epshteyn was named to the FISA court in July as a target, but – and I re-emphasize this point – that application was denied by the court.
These words made my heart go all a-flutter, and not just because the speculation started here
, in a piece written by Modesty Forbids. In her twitter feed, Mensch has hinted that Christopher Steele -- the former MI6 agent who compiled the Orbis dossier -- recorded
conversations with his sources. If my "Ephsteyn = E" argument was wide of the mark, Mensch probably would have said so.
I suspect, but cannot prove, that she has heard those recordings. Call it a gut instinct. Even if she hasn't, she seems to be on friendly terms with Steele.
(Seth Abramson also says that Ephsteyn is Source E -- a conclusion he reached two-and-a-half months after I did. Since I do not have a crush on Seth Abramson, I will simply give you this link
and leave it at that.)
Mensch notes that in TV interviews, Devin Nunes said that "only one person" working in the White House was still under intelligence surveillance. That person, in all likelihood, was Ephsteyn. Why did Nunes make that cryptic remark during a televised interview? His comment offered a signal to that "one person": Escape while you can
. Ephsteyn vamoosed just a short while later.
In a follow-up article, Mensch looks at the White House contact who led Nunes unto that sooper-seekrit SCIF in the Executive Office Building, where the House Intel Chair saw computer files of intercepted communications. Everyone has been wondering: Just who was the contact person?
Louise Mensch has an idea
...I can exclusively report that sources with links to Congress state that staffers working on the Russia investigations believe that lawyers connected to the White House are illegally sharing information with Nunes – and illegally pressing him to leak it.
While sources are not yet definite as to which lawyer or lawyers they suspect of repeatedly breaking the law on leaks and obstruction of justice, several have named Michael Ellis, of the White House General Counsel’s office for National Security, as one they suspect.
Mr. Ellis previous job was the General Counsel for the House Intelligence Committee, working for Mr. Nunes directly. Sources indicate that Nunes recommended Ellis for the White House national security post.
Yesterday it was reported that Nunes’ friend Mr. Ellis, described as his “close aide”, only started working for the White House this month, when leaks started.
If indeed Mr. Ellis did pass on information about the FISA evidence on money laundering, possibly involving Epshteyn, to Nunes, asking him to leak it to the press or allowing him to do so, it would be highly illegal conduct.
has gone down the same investigative trail...
The Schiff statement came as panel staffers speculated on the possible identity of Nunes’ White House source, focusing on Michael Ellis, a lawyer who worked for Nunes on the intelligence panel and who was recently hired to work on national security matters at the White House counsel’s office. A White House official and spokesman for Nunes declined to comment on whether Ellis was involved in providing information to Nunes, as did a spokesman for Schiff.
of the New Yorker notes that Nunes refuses to confirm or deny that identification.
This interview with Nunes
contains the only clues he has given as to the source's identity:
"We don't have networked access to these kinds of reports in Congress," Nunes said. He added that his source was not a White House staffer and was an intelligence official.
Nunes, it should be said, has a history of cultivating independent sources inside the intelligence community. He made contact, for example, with the U.S. intelligence contractors who ended up saving most of the Americans stuck in the Benghazi outpost when it was attacked on Sept. 11, 2012. More recently, Nunes has reached out to his network of whistleblowers to learn about pressure inside the military's Central Command on analysts to write positive reports on the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State.
If Ellis is the guy, doesn't a White House counsel
count as a White House staffer
? Nunes says that his source is an intelligence official
, not a lawyer working on national security matters. Just who is
I'll tell you this much: He's no easy google. This official announcement
of new Trump administration hires aroused my interest; although the actual page has gone all 404 on us, we still have the Google cache version.
Most recently, Mr. Ellis served as General Counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence... Earlier in his career, Mr. Ellis served as an Associate Director in the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives. Mr. Ellis is also an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve.
If Ellis really is the man, then the problem facing us today isn't just Putin. The problem is also our own
covert realm. In the past, I have argued that the most eldritch secret of Trump's ascension is not the help he received from Russia but the help he got from our own intelligence community. That community is not monolithic. There are factions. There are always
(And I say that as the very first writer
to argue in public that Putin was rigging the election for Trump.)
Spy scandals always come in layers, and spies manipulate their media assets to make sure that we don't get to the deepest
layers. It's not enough to prove Dreyfuss innocent: You must also prove Esterhazy guilty. It's not enough to prove that Nixon orchestrated a cover-up; you must also ask why McCord intentionally blew the break-in. It's not enough to prove that Oswald didn't fire the kill shot; you must also show that Jim Angleton got on the phone and said "Boris, I have a job for you."
As we ponder the question of "What makes Devin run?" we have to ask questions that few seem interested in pursuing: How did a feck-impaired former dairyman end up heading the House Intelligence Committee? Why did sources in Spyworld glom onto him even before he received his current assignment?
The "spooks against Trump" brigade won't tell you that the CIA has been manipulating the House and Senate Intelligence Committees from the beginning.
From an earlier post
You may recall the evidence that came out earlier that the NSA has been spying on members of Congress. Russell Tice:
Okay. They went after–and I know this because I had my hands literally on the paperwork for these sort of things–they went after high-ranking military officers; they went after members of Congress, both Senate and the House, especially on the intelligence committees and on the armed services committees and some of the–and judicial.
Remember the Duke Cunningham bribery scandal? Remember the really juicy stuff
that came out toward the end -- the revelations about former CIA Director Porter Goss and the parties at the Watergate and the Westin, about the prostitutes used to collect what we now call "kompromat" on politicians?
Devin Nunes entered Congress while Porter Goss and Dusty Foggo were still holding those "poker parties." As LBJ once said: "I never trust a man until I got his pecker in my pocket." Perhaps the dairyman's pecker was pocketed back then.
Or perhaps the pocketing happened years later -- for example, on a yacht in San Francisco Bay.
My dear Louise Mensch: I hope that by some chance you are reading this message. I confess to being smitten, but I can never be an uncritical admirer. (Of anyone
.) (Except her
.) You've mentioned Cambridge Analytica, and you've noted their connection to Breitbart, but you won't talk about that firm's ties to the British and American intelligence systems. You've offered an interesting theory as to how Steve Bannon came to power -- the same idea
popped into my own cranium -- but you won't talk about the hidden history of Breitbart's links to Aaron Barr, H.B. Gary, Mantech, and MZM -- which brings us, by a commodius vicus of recirculation, back to the Cunningham scandal and environs.
Yeah, Russia is important. The Russia connection will, I hope, bring down Trump.
But that's not the deepest
layer. You begin to explore the deepest layer when you ask: Which people within our own intelligence community
wanted to make Trump president? And why?