Devin Nunes faces new questions about previously unreported calls

 msnbc.com  12/04/2019 15:23:29   Steve Benen

For those who’ve followed the impeachment process closely, many of the elements in the House Intelligence Committee’s report were familiar. We knew, for example, about Donald Trump’s Ukraine extortion scheme, his efforts to secure foreign assistance for his re-election campaign, the degree to which the Republican undermined national security, and the president’s efforts to obstruct the investigation.

There were, however, quite a few revelations that we did not know – including, as the New York Times reported, new details about previously unreported phone calls.

The report … indicated that Democrats have collected more raw evidence than previously known, including call records produced by AT&T and Verizon showing a series of phone calls between Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and his associates and several government officials.

The calls came as Mr. Giuliani was executing a smear campaign against the American ambassador to Ukraine at the time, Marie L. Yovanovitch, and pressing Ukraine to begin investigations that would benefit Mr. Trump. The records show calls between Mr. Giuliani and others, including Representative Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee.

As Rachel noted on the show last night, the Giuliani calls are rather extraordinary in their own right, especially the unexplained calls between the president’s attorney and the White House Office of Management and Budget, which was in turmoil as Trump tried to exploit a vulnerable ally by withholding congressionally approved military aid.

But the role of Devin Nunes, the Intelligence Committee’s ranking member, was every bit as surprising. The controversial California Republican’s name appears in the 300-page report dozens of times, and not just because of his official role on the congressional panel.

Politico added in an overnight report:

[P]hone records obtained by the committee show that [Nunes] spoke several times to Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani earlier this year, around the same time that Giuliani was publicly attacking Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine at the time, and arranging a trip to Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden.

The records also show that in April, Nunes spoke to Giuliani’s recently-indicted associate Lev Parnas, whose lawyer has claimed he was explicitly tasked by Trump to investigate the Bidens activities in Ukraine. And a former Nunes staffer-turned NSC official who remains close with the ranking member, Kash Patel, spoke with Giuliani for 25 minutes on May 10 – just after Giuliani briefed former Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker on his upcoming trip to Ukraine, the records show.

None of these calls were previously disclosed by the GOP lawmaker.

There were some suggestions last night that these revelations suggest that the congressional investigation somehow targeted Nunes. In reality, however, it appears investigators targeted key players in the Trump-Ukraine scandal – including figures such as Rudy Giuliani and Lev Parnas, among others – not realizing that they were in contact with the leading House Republican.

The result is an exceedingly awkward dynamic: one of the top members of Congress investigating the Ukraine scheme may have also privately been in communications with some of the scheme’s key players around the time their plot was unfolding.

All of this, of course, dovetails with recent reporting that alleged Nunes met with Viktor Shokin, the former Ukrainian prosecutor, about investigating the Bidens. Those claims came by way of Joseph Bondy, an attorney for Lev Parnas, Giuliani’s indicted associate.

Nunes spoke to Fox News Sean Hannity last night, and the host asked the congressman whether he ever spoke to Parnas. You know, it’s possible, but I haven’t gone through all my phone records, Nunes replied. I don’t really recall that name. I remember the name now because he’s been indicted…. I’ll go back and check all my records, but it seems very unlikely that I would be taking calls from random people.

« Go back