Devin Nunes' "Fox News Sunday" Interview Was Far More Nuanced Than Reported

Posted: Mar 19, 2017 11:27 AM

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday: “Was there a physical wiretap of Trump Tower? No, there never was.”

That quote is the one getting the most play in stories about his “Fox News Sunday” appearance, with some outlets suggesting it’s a slam dunk disproving President Trump’s wiretap assertions. If you listen to the entire interview, however, it’s not so simplistic, and the full interview was much meatier than that one quote suggests, covering many issues.

Here are eight key points from the interview:

1. While there is no evidence currently that Trump Tower was wiretapped, it’s still not known if other surveillance activities were used.

“Was there a physical wiretap of Trump Tower? No, but there never was. And the information that we got on Friday continues to lead us in that direction.”

Upon further questioning, making the distinction that this was after the Committee received information from the FBI, NSA and CIA on Friday:

“There was no FISA warrant that I’m aware of to tap Trump tower. That’s correct.”

“We have a lot of surveillance activities in this country, and I think the concern that the Trump Administration has is, were they actually using surveillance activities to know what they were up to? Because we know that that happened with Gen. Flynn.”

Part of the issue here is that Trump seems to use the term “wiretap” in a generic sense when referring to any type of surveillance, while the Committee, the DOJ, and members of the intelligence community use a much more exact definition. It’s also interesting to note that Nunes adds the caveat “that I’m aware of” to his FISA warrant answer.

2. Some communications of members of Team Trump may have been picked up by the intelligence community as a part of their surveillance of other people.

We know that Gen. Flynn’s name came- up as a result of surveillance of the Russian ambassador. Nunes stated that no current White House officials are under surveillance or investigation, but:

“[I]f there were other surveillance activities where names were picked up and then unmasking occurred, and that was spread throughout the intelligence community, that is very possible, and we don’t have the answers to those questions yet. I don’t know if the President has those or not.”

3. The committee is investigating a crime – the unmasking of Gen. Flynn.

“There is evidence, however, that at least one crime was committed.”

As many have noted, the leaking of Gen. Flynn’s name, an American citizen, to the public is a crime. Though Democrat members of Congress shrug it off, Nunes promises his committee will get to the bottom of it.

“The one crime we know that’s been committed is that one. The leaking of someone’s name through the FISA system, that is a crime that’s been committed. We don’t know the answer to that. That’s what we’re trying to get to the bottom of….We know a law has been broken, and we need to get to the bottom of it.”

4. There is no evidence currently of any collusion between Team Trump and Russia with the intent of influencing the outcome of the election.

When Wallace point-blank asked about that issue, Nunes replied:

“I’ll give you a very simple answer. No. …Up to speed on everything that I have up through this morning. There is no evidence of collusion.”

But, Nunes said, the Committee will investigate “whether or not they [Russians] did try to help Trump and if any Trump associates were involved.”

5. Nunes and the Committee are looking into “analytical integrity” and potentially criminal information leaks by members of the intelligence community.

Since January the term “deep state” has been thrown around, and President Trump has repeatedly asserted both that leaks from the intelligence community have hobbled his administration and that he’s not received complete and accurate information from them.The Committee apparently has concerns about the integrity of reports received from the intelligence community as well.

“We’re worried about analytical integrity. We don’t know how information changed and if information changed, because in the beginning of December the assessment was that hey, the Russians were trying to get into our election process and cause problems in our system. But then that changed a month later and it said no, no, no, that they were trying to help Donald Trump. So we need to get to the bottom of that.”

In addition, they believe it’s clear that people with classified information have leaked it with the intent of harming the Trump Administration.

“I think that’s pretty clear that that’s happening. There’s even been stories written about it in numerous newspapers, talking about how they said they left breadcrumbs around to hurt the Trump Administration. I think it was largely people who were there, who had classified information, who are no longer there, and who decided to leak it.”

6. The House Intelligence Committee believes Russia is a threat.

Over the past few years we’ve watched with amazement as the Democrats have gone from laughing at Mitt Romney’s warnings about the danger Russia and Vladimir Putin pose to acting like at any moment a fleet of Russian fighter jets or submarines could launch an attack on U.S. soil – and accusing Republicans of conspiring with the Russian government to win the 2016 election. Chairman Nunes says he believes Putin is a “bad actor on the world stage” and looks forward to investigating Russian interference.

“For the first time the American people and all the political parties are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses….We’re going to highlight the fact that we know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades.”

7. The Committee doesn’t have all of the information they’ve requested from the FBI, CIA, and NSA yet.

“We had a deadline of Friday for the FBI, CIA, NSA to give us names that were unmasked through the FISA system. We didn’t get those names on Friday. So, until we get those names, we can’t rule this out.”

8. This hearing is not the end. It’s just the beginning.

“This is just the beginning. Another week from now, a week from Tuesday, on the 28th we have an additional hearing with three more witnesses. So we’re trying to get to everyone who, for a lack of a better term, was at the crime scene.”

Nunes clarified that the term “crime scene” referred to the unmasking of Gen. Flynn, since that is the only crime they know has occurred.

When looking at the totality of what Chairman Nunes said about what they know and don’t know and the scope of what his committee is looking at, it’s clear that the takeaway from this interview is far deeper than a simplistic "There was never a wiretap at Trump Tower" quote and headline. 

Because of this hearing and others, it's going to be quite a week on Capitol Hill.

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