interview with Emmy-award winning investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson
19 February, 2018
There are numerous investigations going on, but one of them, at least, is coming to a close. That is the House Intelligence Committee investigation into alleged Trump-Russia collusion. As of today, that Republican-led investigation hasn’t turned up any improper ties to Russia, but has revealed something perhaps larger and even more serious. We asked to sit down with both the top Democrat and Republican on the committee, only the Republican chairman Devin Nunes agreed.
Sharyl: What is the investigation that the House intelligence committee is covering?
Rep. Devin Nunes: Well we have a Russian Investigation going on whether or not there was collusion between any campaign and the Russians. That's coming to a close. We've never had any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
Sharyl: So you're comfortable with saying at this point, you don't see anything there?
Rep. Devin Nunes: No, There's nothing there.
Sharyl: What else?
Rep. Devin Nunes: So in that investigation, we've unearthed things that are very concerning. We know that there are un-maskings that occurred and probably were leaked to the media. So this is, so these were, this is an intelligence products that were put together. The names or the names of the Americans were masked.
Sharyl: Because it's so sensitive, Americans aren't supposed to be spied on by our intelligence agencies. So when they are captured, their names are-
Rep. Devin Nunes: Are masked-
Sharyl: Right, Masked, inside the government.
Rep. Devin Nunes: And what we found was happening is, in the last administration, they were unmasking hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of American's names. They were unmasking people for what I would say, for lack of a better definition, were for political purposes.
Sharyl: How could they use that information?
Rep. Devin Nunes: We have no evidence, that they leaked this information, okay. We only know that we only know this. That names were unmasked. And those names ended up in the newspaper.
Sharyl: In a derogatory sense, in terms of political enemies of the Obama Administration.
Rep. Devin Nunes: Right, it's like political dirt to create a narrative and a spin with the mainstream media.
Sharyl: You reported what you learned early on, on the unmaskings to President Trump and were criticized by a Democrat counterpart of the committee, Adam Schiff. Who said you quote, Made a midnight run to the White House, where you misrepresented where you received the information. There was an ethics investigation into that, and you were cleared. But how would you answer Adam Schiff's criticism that you behaved improperly?
Rep. Devin Nunes: Well most of the time I ignore political nonsense in this town. What I will say is that all of those stories were totally fake from the beginning. When I got that information okay, which was not at midnight. I didn't jump out of any cars. That was totally fake. It was all made up nonsense. I went out and held a press availability, where I told the press, Look, I've, I found this information. It has nothing to do with Russia. I'm going to go explain this to the President of the United States. Because I'm the only one that really can do it. And then I went and did that. Briefed the President. Afterwards, I went and talked to the press at the White House. So my reward for transparency, total transparency with the with the media and everybody involved was to be brought up under a false ethics accusation. That has since everyone's learned was total nonsense and it's been dismissed.
Sharyl: On the unmaskings, one very tangible bit of evidence that to me looks like a crime. Is the fact that the US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power. It looked like she had made a masking request on a near-daily basis. Which is amazing in 2016. It's pretty incredible. Yet she reportedly told Congress, most of those were not really her.
Rep. Devin Nunes: Yeah.
Sharyl: Wouldn't that mean somebody committed a serious National Security Crime if they used her name to request unmaskings of US Citizens?
Rep. Devin Nunes: Yeah, so we don't know what the truth is there. I think it would be, I think it's highly unlikely that she was not the one who was giving permission to make those unmasking requests.
Sharyl: So you don't believe her?
Rep. Devin Nunes: I just don't know how that's possible.
Sharyl: There appears to be a serious conflict of interest that the intelligence community, FBI, who are in charge of the investigation some of these things, are implicated in some of these alleged misdeeds. How do you get around that? How can this be investigated fairly, when the only prosecutorial authority really rests with the people accused of wrongdoing?
Rep. Devin Nunes: Yeah and I think what you're, and now what you're getting into is the FISA abuse. So I want to, I think we want to make sure we make that change, the difference there. So there was unmaskings that we unearthed, then there are the FISA abuse that we've discovered.
Sharyl: That's the secret court. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court, where intelligence officials can go to try to get wiretaps on US citizens or foreign actors.
Rep. Devin Nunes: That's right. And so this is where the FBI and the Justice Department because they're involved in this FISA Abuse. Because they're the ones who make, to go before the secret court to get the warrants, they're all involved, they're all implicated in this.
Sharyl: But the most you can do about it to be clear, is to just raise the issue. Congress can't prosecute or refer cases for prosecution.
Rep. Devin Nunes: Congress can, right. Congress can make criminal referrals. Congress can
Sharyl: To the people accused of wrongdoing in this case.
Rep. Devin Nunes: Right, right. So there's really nowhere for it to go. And that's I think a lot of people. We are a separate equal branch of government, but we don't have the ability to prosecute people. And that's the challenge.
Sharyl: Why is the Carter Page wiretap interview so important? Carter Page is the former Trump volunteer, advisor, who was wiretapped apparently, at least four times. Three times by the way, apparently after President Trump was elected. Why is that wiretap so important?
Rep. Devin Nunes: It really boils down to this. You had a campaign. The Hillary Campaign and the Democratic Party went out and paid for dirt. They got it from Russians by the way. Then they used that dirt and funneled it into the FBI. The FBI then used that dirt to get a warrant on a US citizen who was part of the other campaign. A limited role, yes. But still, to do that, it's wrong.
Sharyl: We asked your Democrat counterpart Adam Schiff for an interview, but he wouldn't do it. He said that the memo that you put out was misleading and omitted material facts.
Rep. Devin Nunes: Because we didn't want to disclose any sources and methods. We tried to reduce the memo down to what we believed the American people needed to know. What was most important? So we put in the memo, the things that were used before the FISA court in order to justify the warrant. Was there other information? Sure. But it wasn't, it wasn't important in terms of the justification of the warrant.
Sharyl: Congressman Adam Schiff says, your goal is to put the FBI on trial, and to put special counsel Bob Mueller's investigation on trial.
Rep. Devin Nunes: Yeah, well FISA abuse has nothing to do with, with the Mueller investigation. As it relates to Department of Justice and the FBI, if they need to be put on trial, we will put them on trial. The reason that Congress exists is to oversee these agencies that we created. DOJ and FBI are not above the law. Congress created them, we oversee them, and we fund them. And if they're committing abuse for a secret court, getting warrants on American citizens, you're darn right that we're going to put them on trial.
Sharyl: What would you say is the takeaway?
Rep. Devin Nunes: And I think people are just starting to learn now what really happened. Because as we peel more and more of this back, I think more and more Americans get educated. And I think that they're gonna demand that changes are made.
Friday, Mueller announced indictments against a number of Russians who operated social media pages. The indictment alleges some of those Russian nationals were in contact with the Trump campaign.