Although Special Counsel Robert Mueller has submitted his final report, the Russia scandal continues to rage. Thursday night, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) — the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee — revealed that he wanted to meet privately with Attorney General William Barr to push his side of that scandal and demand criminal charges against a host of officials.
The hoped-for meeting mirrors efforts that drew Nunes intense criticism back when he was intel chair, when he privately met with the White House to review evidence in the Russia probe. At the time, he alleged that the Trump team had been spied on like the president had recently asserted — and curiously enough, Barr expressed support for that claim during recent Senate testimony, meaning the controversial Congressman may have an ally in the attorney general.
Nunes wants to push eight criminal referrals with the attorney general, which constitute demands for criminal investigation but are not legally binding. The Congressman declined to name his targets publicly, but said that five of them target individuals behind “serious misconduct in the Trump-Russia probe,” one would cover a hoped-for “global leaks” investigation and name “a few reporters,” and the last two “would allege conspiracies to manipulate intelligence and to abuse the FBI’s sensitive FISA surveillance process to spy on a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page,” in POLITICO‘s description. Nunes has long beat a drum over that last case, alleging that authorities inappropriately concealed the partisan nature of material they used to justify a request to spy on Page, which has been staunchly refuted by Democrats, who’ve also gone after the idea that the Trump team itself was spied on. Now, he’s gone so far that he asserted without evidence that Mueller was appointed “to spy on an acting president.”
Although the Justice Department declined multiple requests for comment on whether they’d actually follow through, House Democrats and their aides have been angered by the idea that Barr would meet privately with Nunes and Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), who’s also on the intel panel and who Nunes said he’d have at the meeting too. Protocol demands that such meetings include representatives of the minority and the majority, safeguarding Congressional investigative processes against splinter factions going down a rabbit trail like Nunes is.
An intelligence committee aide exclaimed to POLITICO:
‘It is clear that [Republicans] believe they now have an ally in the attorney general to perpetuate their conspiracy theories of “spying” and their determination to investigate the investigators, no matter how misguided and damaging their efforts are to our national institutions or the dedicated public servants who work to keep us safe.’
Supporting the aide’s idea, House Republicans have already sent Barr another “criminal referral.” House Oversight Committee members Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Mark Meadows (N.C.) want Barr to prosecute former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen for supposedly lying to Congress about his past aims to procure a job in the administration.
Senate Republicans seem to also be on board with the idea of roping Barr in as an accomplice in their endless quest to investigate the investigators. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said shortly after Mueller dropped his report that he’d push Barr for a second special counsel to essentially investigate the first one’s case.
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