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Clash with witness shows Nunes' drive to discredit dossier

Last month, an attorney expressed his outrage with leaders of the House Intelligence Committee: He demanded to know w...

Posted: Feb 9, 2018 8:59 AM
Updated: Feb 9, 2018 9:00 AM

Last month, an attorney expressed his outrage with leaders of the House Intelligence Committee: He demanded to know why a committee official shared his client's secret testimony with another lawyer, a blatant violation of the panel's rules.

Days later, the committee instead sent a subpoena signed by Chairman Devin Nunes demanding that the witness -- an associate to Sen. John McCain who had met with ex-British agent Christopher Steele -- reappear before the committee on short notice. News of the subpoena was reported by a conservative media outlet just 10 minutes after the witness received it.

The episode, which was described to CNN by four sources from both parties with knowledge of the meeting and which has not been previously reported, underscores the aggressive tactics Nunes and several of his senior staffers have employed to undercut Steele's dossier of allegations tying Donald Trump and his associates to Russia.

While Nunes, R-California, has rallied Trump and many Republicans to his cause by going after the FBI and Steele dossier, Democrats say he's stifled similar efforts to obtain more information on Russia and Trump, sitting on numerous requests for subpoenas, phone records and Democratic demands to schedule witness interviews.

The committee, instead, has issued subpoenas to the McCain associate and the firm behind the Steele dossier, Fusion GPS. And led by Nunes, the panel fought a lawsuit to secure Fusion GPS' bank records, quietly sent two aides to try to track down Steele in London and threatened to hold senior officials at the FBI and the Justice Department in contempt of Congress for not turning over documents.

Nunes has wielded this considerable influence despite not attending classified hearings with witnesses after announcing last year he would temporarily step aside from the investigation and handing the reins to Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas. It all culminated in Nunes' controversial memo alleging FBI and Justice Department misconduct in how it used the Steele dossier to obtain a warrant to conduct surveillance on a Trump adviser.

"The chairman's efforts to put the government on trial, rather than conduct a credible Russia investigation, have made our work exponentially more difficult," said California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel.

Republicans charge that Schiff and the committee's Democrats are trying to extend the Russia investigation into the 2018 campaign season, and they have expressed their support of Nunes.

"The Democrats are going to complain about everything we do. ... But you know what, they don't get to decide that -- we do," said Florida Rep. Tom Rooney, who is helping lead the committee's Russia investigation. "Nunes hasn't told us 'no' for anything we've asked for."

Things are so tense on the committee that Republican staff is weighing whether to install a physical barrier to separate GOP and Democratic aides, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.

"They're going to have to start installing a shower in the (committee) SCIF so we can feel normal after," Rep. Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat, said after the committee's vote last week to release the Republican memo.

Approached this week, Nunes said he wouldn't discuss committee business in the halls of the Capitol. His spokesman declined to comment.

But a GOP source on the panel said, "It's ironic that committee Democrats appear to have leaked information in order to accuse Republicans of leaking information."

The committee has long been plagued by accusations of leaks from both sides of the aisle.

Rooney told CNN the Office of Congressional Ethics has sent letters to all of the Republican committee staff of the House Intelligence Committee related to leaks. A liberal advocacy group Campaign for Accountability filed a complaint with OCE against Nunes and his staff, accusing them of leaking information related to Fusion GPS. It's not clear if the letters are tied to that complaint or if it will turn into a formal investigation, and OCE will not comment publicly on its investigations.

The fight over the testimony of the McCain associate from January underscores the deepening tension.

The witness, David Kramer, who went to work for McCain's think tank at Arizona State University in 2014, has been in Nunes' sights after revelations that he met with Steele in 2016. After the 2016 election, Kramer and McCain, R-Arizona, met with a former British ambassador to Russia who worked with Steele, according to court filings in the U.K. That contact helped Kramer meet with Steele to review the ex-agent's work in late November 2016, then Kramer worked with Fusion to obtain hard copies of the dossier.

But Kramer's attorney, Larry Robbins, raised grave concerns that the committee was violating rules by disseminating private information about Kramer's appearance before the panel.

Robbins declined to comment for this story, as did Kramer, a former diplomat and assistant secretary of state. Schiff also declined to comment about Kramer's testimony.

But sources familiar with the matter recounted that Robbins raised serious concerns in a December 23 letter that another attorney whose client was a committee witness had contacted him for his assistance. That attorney recounted specific details from Kramer's testimony, Robbins told the panel, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

After complaining about the matter, Kramer received a subpoena for his appearance before the panel four days later. And 10 minutes after receiving it, news broke in the conservative media that Kramer had been issued a subpoena to reappear in January.

Compounding the problems, Robbins had a medical appointment that initially posed a conflict to meet the committee's demand for his appearance. And Kramer, who had been in Florida, had to quickly catch a flight to Washington to meet with the committee.

In the January 10 hearing, Robbins lashed out at the committee for roughly 30 minutes, accusing Nunes' staff of conduct unbecoming of how attorneys treat one another, sources said. And members of both parties privately expressed alarmed at the situation. Conaway told Robbins he was sympathetic to the concerns he had raised, multiple sources said.

Conaway acknowledged Robbins' raised concerns but said that the committee needed to complete its interview process. "I'm not going to second guess our team," Conaway said. "We got it done. And it was an inconvenience to the witness and to him but we got it done."

Conaway said he has confidence in Nunes as chairman.

"We're doing the Russia investigation -- he's got a lot of other committee business that's going on," Conaway said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 261167

Reported Deaths: 5713
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17561191
Hinds16687329
Harrison14050202
Rankin11102217
Jackson10729188
Lee9014143
Madison8495168
Jones6607114
Forrest6135122
Lauderdale6067192
Lowndes5490120
Lafayette511794
Lamar499865
Washington4904125
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Panola380981
Pontotoc374757
Monroe3651106
Warren3649103
Union353263
Marshall352069
Neshoba3464154
Pearl River3422105
Leflore3090109
Lincoln304287
Sunflower290373
Hancock288461
Tate279062
Alcorn270754
Pike268180
Itawamba266662
Scott256048
Yazoo253756
Prentiss251153
Copiah247649
Tippah247550
Coahoma245954
Simpson241471
Leake236167
Grenada222471
Marion220273
Covington219072
Adams212370
Wayne208432
Winston205870
George203539
Newton197346
Attala196461
Tishomingo193861
Chickasaw188444
Jasper177838
Holmes171368
Clay164237
Tallahatchie155635
Stone149525
Clarke144762
Calhoun139922
Smith127725
Yalobusha121134
Walthall114037
Greene112929
Noxubee112225
Montgomery111236
Carroll106422
Lawrence105617
Perry104031
Amite100826
Webster95424
Tunica88221
Claiborne87825
Jefferson Davis87727
Benton84823
Humphreys84224
Kemper80020
Quitman7049
Franklin69617
Choctaw62513
Wilkinson59625
Jefferson56520
Sharkey44817
Issaquena1606
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 436087

Reported Deaths: 6486
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63969994
Mobile31211565
Madison27851208
Tuscaloosa21233271
Montgomery19698326
Shelby19093130
Baldwin16981188
Lee13036105
Morgan12526134
Etowah11987179
Calhoun11441206
Marshall10357123
Houston8886158
Limestone827876
Cullman8203108
Elmore8120104
DeKalb7828103
Lauderdale7798103
St. Clair7763125
Talladega6394111
Walker6002177
Jackson594644
Colbert545276
Blount543986
Autauga532761
Coffee456762
Dale406883
Franklin372448
Russell349212
Chilton342873
Covington336068
Escambia330144
Dallas312096
Tallapoosa3120107
Chambers301170
Clarke293336
Pike261131
Marion251558
Lawrence250752
Winston232742
Bibb221248
Geneva208746
Marengo206529
Pickens199031
Hale182742
Barbour179337
Fayette177029
Butler172459
Cherokee164330
Henry158224
Monroe151320
Randolph144336
Washington140127
Clay129146
Crenshaw122944
Macon120937
Cleburne120724
Lamar119721
Lowndes113736
Wilcox106622
Bullock102228
Perry99118
Conecuh96821
Sumter90026
Greene76823
Coosa63215
Choctaw51724
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