Here's what the Ukraine report reveals about Devin Nunes' shady role in the scandal
While the House Intelligence Committee's Ukraine report, released Tuesday, is primarily an indictment of President Donald Trump's conduct, it also includes stunning details about the committee's top Republican: Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA).
Nunes and his allies have argued, in defense of Trump, that committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) is somehow the subject of a conflict of interest in the impeachment inquiry because his staff spoke to the intelligence community whistleblower who first exposed the Ukraine scandal. But in reality, it seems that Nunes is much more deeply implicated in the facts of the case, raising serious questions about his own conflicts of interest and potential misconduct.
For example, the report found that, while reporter John Solomon was publishing claims from a Ukrainian official against former Vice President Joe Biden — claims exactly like those that Rudy Giuliani and President Donald Trump would push Ukraine to investigate as part of the scandal — Nunes appeared to be in the loop on some related conversations:
Over the course of the four days following the April 7 article, phone records show
contacts between Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Parnas, Representative Devin Nunes, and Mr. Solomon.
Specifically, Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Parnas were in contact with one another, as well as with Mr.
Solomon. Phone records also show contacts on April 10 between Mr. Giuliani and Rep. Nunes, consisting of three short calls in rapid succession, followed by a text message, and ending with a nearly three minute call. Later that same day, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Solomon had a four minute, 39 second call.
Lev Parnas, referenced here, is one of the two Giuliani associates who have been indicted by the Southern District of New York as part of a campaign finance conspiracy. The charges against them are linked, in part, to the campaign to oust former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, which eventually Trump carried out.
Phone records included in the report from this time show five calls between Nunes and Giuliani, three of which appear to have been successful. They also show four calls between Nunes and Parnas, only two of which were apparently successful; one call was eight minutes, 34 seconds long.
A lawyer for Parnas recently told CNN that his client claims Nunes met with a disgraced former Ukrainian prosecutor to dig up dirt on Biden. Though the claims have not been confirmed, travel records suggest the trip could have occurred. Nunes has aggressively lashed out at CNN's report, calling it "demonstrably false" and saying he would sue, but he did not contest any specific claim.
But the lawyer claimed that Nunes and Parnas began communicating around the time of the trip, and the Ukraine report seems to confirm at least the fact that they have been in direct communication.
The report also said that, on May 8 — while Giuliani was public discussing a trip to Ukraine to push for the investigations Trump wanted — he had a call with Derek Harvey, a Nunes aide. It continued:
Call records also show that around midday on May 10, Mr. Giuliani began trading aborted calls with Kashyap “Kash” Patel, an official at the National Security Council who previously served on Ranking Member Devin Nunes’ staff on the Intelligence Committee. Mr. Patel successfully connected with Mr. Giuliani less than an hour after Mr. Giuliani’s call with Ambassador Volker. Beginning at 3:23 p.m., Eastern Time, Mr. Patel and Mr. Giuliani spoke for over 25 minutes. Five minutes after Mr. Patel and Mr. Giuliani disconnected, an unidentified “-1” number connected with Mr. Giuliani for over 17 minutes Shortly thereafter, Mr. Giuliani spoke with Mr. Parnas for approximately 12 minutes.
During the public hearings, witnesses also suggested that Patel may have been briefing Trump privately on Ukraine, though it wasn't a part of his formal role. The report said that Dr. Fiona Hill claimed Patel "maintained a close relationship with Ranking Member Nunes after leaving his staff to join the NSC."
It's not clear yet what all these facts add up to yet. But when asked on Tuesday about what they mean, Schiff expressed concern.
"I’m going to reserve comment," he said, before adding that it is "deeply disturbing that, at a time when the president of the United States was using the power of his office to dig up dirt on a political rival, that there may be evidence that members of Congress complicit in that activity. Now, there’s a lot more to learn about that, and I don’t want to state that that is an unequivocal fact. But the allegations are deeply concerning. Our focus is on the president’s conduct first and foremost. It may be the role of others to evaluate the conduct of members of Congress."