Ever since the release of Attorney General William Barr’s synopsis of the Mueller report, Rep. Devin Nunes — the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee — has been talking about criminal referrals for acts committed during the 2016 presidential campaign and its aftermath.
Now, the California congressman is making it clear just how many people he’s going after — and former FBI Director James Comey is just one of those who has a reason to sweat.
In an appearance on Fox News on Sunday, Nunes said he’d sent eight criminal referrals to Barr, the latest sign that high-level Republicans were going on the offensive in the wake of the Mueller report.
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Nunes told Fox News he’d been working on the referrals for over two years. However, he had delayed sending them over until Barr’s confirmation. (The Mueller report, one imagines, didn’t hurt his case either.)
“We’re prepared this week to notify the attorney general that we’re prepared to send those referrals over,” Nunes told host Maria Bartiromo. “First of all, all of these are classified or sensitive. … Five of them are what I would call straight up referrals — so, just referrals that name someone and name the specific crimes.
“Those crimes are lying to Congress, misleading Congress, leaking classified information. So five of them are those types.”
“There are three (referrals) that I think are more complicated,” he added.
They involve material investigators presented to the special court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
“So, on the first one, is FISA abuse and other matters. We believe there was a conspiracy to lie to the FISA court, mislead the FISA court by numerous individuals that all need to be investigated and looked at that, and we believe the (relevant) statute is the conspiracy statute,” he said.
That likely referred to the use of the “Trump dossier” — assembled as opposition research funded by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee — to obtain a warrant in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court against a Trump campaign official.
Nunes later said that “we’ve had a lot of concerns with the way intelligence was used” in the probe into the Trump campaign and possible collusion with the Russians.
“The second conspiracy one is involving manipulation of intelligence that also could ensnarl many Americans,” he continued.
“The third is what I would call a global leak referral,” Nunes said. “So, there are about a dozen highly sensitive classified information leaks that were given to only a few reporters over the last two-and-a-half-plus years. So, you know, we don’t know if there’s actually been any leak investigations that have been opened, but we do believe that we’ve got pretty good information and a pretty good idea of who could be behind these leaks.”
The “horrific” leaks Nunes referred to involved Trump’s conversations with major world leaders as well as the transcripts of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s phone calls.
“I think it’s impossible to ignore,” Nunes said. “If the Mueller team was busting people for lying to the FBI — there are some pretty simple times when people lied to Congress for the sole purpose of obstructing our investigation.”
The criminal referrals also might involve more than one person. In fact, Nunes said that a conspiracy referral could ensnare “a dozen, two dozen people.”
There are a few individuals we can possibly guess will be among those referred. Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is being investigated for lying to Congress by both sides after inconsistencies in his testimony last month arose.
And then there’s House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, who was suspected by Donald Trump Jr. when it came to leaking his closed-door testimony before the committee.
Fox News reported that in January, Trump Jr. said “there’s a 99.9 percent chance (House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is) the guy” who leaked the 2017 testimony, adding that he “came out of testimony 8 at night and CNN is running quotes from noon on about my testimony, you know, in the House Intelligence Committee.”
“I mean, that has to say something about what is going on and who they are. Since (Schiff has) never met a camera he didn’t love, I would bet a lot of money that it was him.”
The FISA warrant, however, might be of more concern to Democrats, particularly when it comes to Comey. Even if the criminal referrals don’t include him, they’re bound to include those close to him — and that’s something that’s probably going to make him sweat.
Others who have reason to sweat? Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. They all signed FISA warrant applications.
The Republicans have increasingly gone on the offensive since the release of the Mueller report. Nunes’ criminal referrals aren’t even the most aggressive move — that award, thus far, has to go to Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who’s proposed a special counsel to look into all matter of Obama-era shenanigans in regard to the 2016 election — but it’s in the same vein.
The message is clear:
Now it’s the Republicans’ turn. And unlike the chimerical Russiagate accusations — what President Donald Trump repeatedly called a “witch hunt” — this is actually real. The idea that a dossier consisting of dodgy opposition research paid for by Hillary Clinton and the Democrats was used to get a FISA warrant against a Trump campaign employee — that’s real.
Lives being destroyed to promote a narrative? That’s real, too.
Peter Strzok’s text messages and conflicts of interest in several investigations? Again, real.
This is about justice. Now that the phony “collusion” narrative is out of the way, we can finally seek it.