The White House categorically denied it today, but, according to reporting by the Washington Post, the Trump adminstration interceded to block former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates from testifying in front of the House Intelligence Committee this morning. Her testimony, which had been scheduled some time ago as part of the Committee’s investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, was abruptly cancelled by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes on March 24, the day after Yates was sent a letter by Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department stating that she couldn’t testify without the approval of the White House, as her communications with Trump’s office were protected by the “presidential communication privilege.”
This, of course, directly contradicts what the White House, through spokesperson Sean Spicer said today. “The White House has taken no action to prevent Sally Yates from testifying,” Spicer said in a statement to Talking Points Memo this morning, “and the Department of Justice specifically told her that it would not stop her, and to suggest otherwise is completely irresponsible.”
Not only was Yates sent a letter telling her that she could not testify without the consent of the President, though. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes also cancelled the meeting where she was to have spoken… And, interestingly, he did so the morning after being summoned to a secret meeting at the White House, where he claims to have been shown “dozens of reports” indicating that “the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.” While Nunes did say that this surveillance was done in accordance with U.S. law, many, including President Trump, took his comments as evidence that Obama had indeed ordered surveillance of the Trump team.
Trump, as you’ll recall, was taking a great deal of heat at the time Nunes shared this news, as politicians from both sides of the aisle, as well as journalists from across the political spectrum, had started questioning his assertion that the President Obama, in violation of U.S. law, had tapped his phones at Trump Tower… Even FBI director Comey, as you’ll recall, said under oath that the claim was essentially bullshit.
So, as this controversy was swirling, and people everywhere were demanding that Trump back up his baseless claims that his phones had been tapped by Obama, Nunes was summoned to the White House, where, according to him, he was shown evidence by a still unnamed source, that conversations at Trump Tower had in fact been taped. And he shared all of this the following morning at a very odd White House press conference, which had been set up without the knowledge of the other members of the House Intelligence Committee, giving Trump the opportunity to then follow up by saying that he felt vindicated.
So, here, to sum things up, is how things when down… FBI Director James Comey and NSA head Michael Rogers testified under oath before the House Intelligence Committee that there was not a shred of evidence to support Trump’s claim that Obama had order an illegal wire tap on his phones. Later that evening, Nunes, who, coincidentally, served on the Trump transition team, was called to the White House where, according to him, he was shown evidence of surveillance, allowing Trump to then say that he felt vindicated. And, it should be noted, Nunes still hasn’t either shared that evidence with his fellow members of the House Intelligence Committee, or, for that matter, told anyone who it was that shared this evidence with him on the grounds of the White House. And, as if that weren’t enough, Nunes also cancelled the testimony of Yates, who, according to Representative Adam Schiff, was prepared to testified about the Flynn “cover-up”, perhaps referring to the fact that Trump’s National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, wasn’t removed from office the instant Yates made the administration aware of the fact that he’d been lying about the extent of his relationship with Putin’s government, opting instead to keep him in his position as head of national security until evidence of Flynn’s illegal activities was leaked to the press by individuals within the intelligence community.
So, not only did Nunes give Trump some degree of political cover, publicly offering the possibility that Trump was at least partially correct when he suggested that his phones had been tapped, but, more importantly, he kept Yates from the stand, where she would have testified to the extent of Flynn’s relationship with Russia, and the fact that Trump, when made aware of the situation, chose to do nothing.
Thankfully, the mainstream press and politicians of all stripes are beginning to turn on Nunes, demanding that he be removed from the Russia hearings… “He shouldn’t be anywhere near this investigation, let alone leading it,” Representative Eric Swalwell said of Nunes on MSNBC this afternoon. “This,” he added, “is what it looks like when you’re covering up a crime.” And Representative Adam Schiff, the committee’s ranking Democrat, came out yesterday and said that Nunes should recuse himself. “We’ve reached the point, after the events of this week, where it would be very difficult to maintain the credibility of the investigation if the chairman did not recuse himself from matters involving either the Trump campaign or the Trump transition team of which he was a member,” Schiff told CNN. And it’s not just the Democrats. Republican Walter Jones, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, today told reporters that he too thinks Nunes should step down.
We’ve let this go long enough. It’s clear to anyone paying attention that, until we get this out of the hands of men like Nunes, we’ll never get the answers that we deserve about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, and whether or not there may have been collusion with the Trump campaign. We need to stop this nonsense immediately and demand a special prosecutor, and an independent commission.
If you agree, call your member of Congress today.