On Thursday morning, CNN New Day was at it again, pushing Democratic talking points. Co-host Alisyn Camerota and CNN reporter Suzanne Malveaux were perplexed that House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) would subpoena for information regarding the unmasking of Americans’ names, such as Michael Flynn’s, in intelligence reports.
CAMEROTA: Those subpoenas came from Chairman Devon Nunes who supposedly stepped aside from this Russian investigation. CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux is live on Capitol Hill with more. So how does that work?
MALVEAUX: That's the question, really, Alisyn, because the House Intelligence Chairman Devon Nunes, really now at the center of yet another controversy and it is raising some serious questions about whether or not he has truly sidelined himself from this Russian investigation.
This all ignored the fact that the issue of unmasking is separate from the issue of collusion as analyst Phil Mudd later admits to in the show. But furthermore, it completely ignores Nunes’ May 19 Special Report interview with James Rosen on Fox News, in which he explained the situation (see below). You would think the media would pay attention to what the Chairman has been saying on national television, especially on a major nightly news program. Even if they disagreed with the logic, they should have addressed it.
Co-host Chris Cuomo then accused the Chairman of playing politics: “This is the problem with a political inquiry is that politics will be played.” They quickly brought Attorney General Jeff Sessions into their tirade. CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman claimed “neither” Sessions nor Nunes had been honest about their actions: “Look, I mean you had a headline which was Nunes steps aside or recuses. I don’t even remember what the headlines were. You had the same thing about Sessions. Neither of them has been exactly true.”
This caused Camerota to emphatically proclaim: “We now know Nunes and Sessions did not step aside.” She pointed to the firing of Comey as proof of Sessions’ transgressions. This statement is false. The firing of then-FBI Director James Comey was not an action that involved the Russian investigation. Comey was not leading the investigation, agents under him were. Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe told Congress on May 11: “The work of the men and women of the FBI continues despite any changes in circumstance, any decisions. So there has been no effort to impede our investigation today.” Combine that with Comey’s May 3rd testimony:
HIRONO: So if the Attorney General or senior officials at the Department of Justice opposes a specific investigation, can they halt that FBI investigation?
COMEY: In theory yes.
HIRONO: Has it happened?
COMEY: Not in my experience. Because it would be a big deal to tell the FBI to stop doing something that — without an appropriate purpose. I mean where oftentimes they give us opinions that we don’t see a case there and so you ought to stop investing resources in it. But I’m talking about a situation where we were told to stop something for a political reason, that would be a very big deal. It’s not happened in my experience.
CNN political analyst and Daily Beast Editor-in-Chief John Avlon then pounced: “The Nunes thing is particularly problematic and insulting for this reason. Nunes kept, keeps on basically parroting White House talking points in his actions on this committee.” He described Nunes’s inquiry as “corrupt.”
But CNN still was not done. CNN counterintelligence analyst Phil Mudd went on one of his daily partisan rants:
To say that this is a political exercise is polite. This is a freak show…You get a piece of intelligence that says an American citizen is interfering by having secret conversations with the Russians that presumably discuss sanctions and you think it's worth investigating why the National Security Adviser wants to know which American citizen is doing that? That's a freak show, it’s not a political side show.
Interference? Even if Michael Flynn had discussed sanctions, that is not interference. Even if Flynn had told Russia, “We will immediately end sanctions upon taking office,” that is still not interference. It would not have changed anything as the Trump administration would be in office in a couple of months. Flynn was the incoming National Security Advisor. Even if it was somehow “interference,” that would not justify unmasking an American citizen. What were they going to do? Arrest Michael Flynn? He is allowed to say anything he wants to a Russian diplomat, as long as he does not reveal classified information.
From a broader scope, one can see how the media places the focus on Nunes and not Obama officials acting inappropriately. In other words, they are giving the Democratic Party cover.
See below for a more complete transcript of the June 1st segment:
ALISYN CAMEROTA: Three subpoenas issued by the House Intel Committee seek information about unmasking requests made by Obama administration officials. Those subpoenas came from Chairman Devon Nunes who supposedly stepped aside from this Russian investigation. CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux is live on Capitol Hill with more. So how does that work?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: That's the question, really, Alisyn, because the House Intelligence Chairman Devon Nunes, really now at the center of yet another controversy and it is raising some serious questions about whether or not he has truly sidelined himself from this Russian investigation. [VIDEO CLIP BEGINS] The new dispute stems from seven new subpoenas issued by the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. Four of them seeking testimony and documents from former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and President Trump's private attorney Michael Cohen. They were approved by both parties for their Russia meddling probe. But the three others were issued unilateral by chairman Devon Nunes without Democratic approval. The Wall Street Journal says those subpoenas were issued to the FBI, CIA, and NSA for information about alleged unmasking by former Obama administration officials seeking details about exactly what led to the unveiling of the names of Trump aides who were in contact with Russian officials and were caught up in surveillance of foreign officials. Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power and former CIA Director John Brennan, all named in the subpoenas. A senior aide claims Nunes was acting separately from the Russia investigation and his aides stress Nunes never entirely recused himself, that he only temporarily stepped aside.
REPORTER: Can this investigation continue as you as chairman?
DEVIN NUNES: Why would it not?
MALVEAUX: In April, Nunes announced he was temporarily putting congressman Mike Conway in charge of the Russia probe. Nunes faced a firestorm of criticism about how he handled classified materials when he obtained documents during a secret White House meeting, without telling Democrats on his own committee.
NUNES: I have seen intelligence reports that clearly show that the President-Elect and his team were, I guess, at least monitored.
ADAM SCHIFF: I don't agree with the chairman's characterization.
MALVEAUX: And last month CNN learned Nunes was still reviewing classified information related to the Russia investigation…
CHRIS CUOMO: And this is the problem with a political inquiry is that politics will be played. Suzanne, thank you very much. Let's bring in the panel. CNN political analysts Maggie Haberman and John Avlon, and CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd. Maggie, the difference between recusal and stepping aside temporarily seems to be purely semantical despite what the Nunes staffer says.
[JOHN AVLON sneezes]
CUOMO: Bless you. Although I do take that as an editorial comment.
AVLON: I meant that.
CUOMO: So doing a little bit of digging, right? Other than a little bit of illegal distinction which is where recusal is usually where someone is making the suggestion that you need to step away and what that process is where a judge or a juror steps away. In this political context it's self-perpetuating and like with Sessions, Sessions didn't go through a process to remove himself from the investigation, he said I’m going to have to step away. Said it publicly. Put somebody else in there and then we carried forward. How is Nunes any different?
MAGGIE HABERMAN: No, I think it's exactly the same. I think to your point this is the problem with the political inquiry and why it is people have been calling for an independent commission something that would be theoretically outside of politics. Look, I mean you had a headline which was Nunes steps aside or recuses. I don’t even remember what the headlines were. You had the same thing about Sessions. Neither of them has been exactly true. So in the case of Nuns [Nunes] this has been a pet issue, I would say for the Trump administration for several weeks now is this unmasking issue. The President put it forward in a meeting, in an interview with my colleague [inaudible] something about Susan Rice. I think you are going to see a huge focus on her. There are legitimate questions about how intelligence is handled in this country and that pre-dates this administration, it pre-dates the Obama administration, but when it is put forward in sort of this parallel track to the Russian investigation, it's going to be hard for people not to see it as an effort to distract from Russia.
CAMEROTA: But also, John, we now know Nunes and Sessions did not step aside. I mean they may have briefly but they are back.
AVLON: Well, Sessions enough so that his deputy was able to put Miller in place.
CAMEROTA: Sure, but he was involved in Comey.
CAMEROTA: -- As we now know.
AVLON: As we now learn. If you really parse the sequence of events that came out after the Trump meeting it's clear he's not totally hands off here. The Nunes thing is particularly problematic and insulting for this reason. Nunes kept, keeps on basically parroting White House talking points in his actions on this committee. There are two core points. Surrogates in the White House constantly pushing. First of all, it's deflection. It’s not us. Let's look at what they did, the Obama administration. The issue is the leaks. The unmasking. If you’ve got a member of Congress who has been entrusted with that role, pursuing those talking points and action as well as on air when cameras are put in his face, that's a sign of a corrupt inquiry unfortunately.
CUOMO: Let's put up Phil Mudd's face for a second.
CAMEROTA: This is our graphic.
CUOMO: You see Phil Mudd's face. That tells you everything about how he feels about these subpoenas for the unmasking. Explain to people why you look the way you do, Phil.
PHIL MUDD: To say that this is a political exercise is polite. This is a freak show. Maggie nailed it. There are two issues here. One a primary concern to the American people, that is what happened during an American presidential election and how were Americans involved? How do we move forward and protect an election, particularly a presidential election in 2020? Because the message to Moscow now is intervene and it's fine. Not only is it fine, we'll continue to work with you. There's stories today about giving back those Russian facilities in the United States back that were sanctioned by President Obama just months ago. Unbelievable. Meanwhile you have a Secondary issue at best, and that is, how does U.S. Intelligence community handle information when a U.S. citizen is named. Devon Nunes decides that instead of being a politician for America, he's like a two-headed goat at the freak show. Let me tell you how normal this is, Chris. If you are the National Security Adviser several months ago in the waning months of the Obama administration your responsibility is to execute policy on Russia, that includes sanctions. You get a piece of intelligence that says an American citizen is interfering by having secret conversations with the Russians that presumably discuss sanctions and you think it's worth investigating why the National Security Adviser wants to know which American citizen is doing that? That's a freak show, it’s not a political side show.