Kevin McCarthy seizes on Tucker Carlson’s attempt to distract from Jan. 6 investigation

The top Republican in the House of Representatives doesn’t want to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. But Tucker Carlson's evidence-free claims that the NSA is spying on him? House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wants an investigation.

“There is a public report that NSA read the emails of Fox News host Tucker Carlson,” McCarthy said in a statement that opened by complaining about last-minute Trump appointee Michael Ellis being put on leave while his appointment is investigated. McCarthy continued, “Although NSA publicly denied targeting Carlson, I have serious questions regarding this matter that must be answered.”

About that NSA denial. “On June 28, 2021, Tucker Carlson alleged that the National Security Agency has been ‘monitoring our electronic communications and is planning to leak them in an attempt to take this show off the air.’ Tucker Carlson has never been an intelligence target of the Agency and the NSA has never had any plans to take his program off the air,” the NSA said in a statement. “NSA has a foreign intelligence mission. We target foreign powers to generate insights on foreign activities that could harm the United States. With limited exceptions (e.g. an emergency), NSA may not target a US citizen without a court order that explicitly authorizes the targeting.”

Carlson is a known liar who has in the past defended himself in court by arguing—successfully—that no reasonable person could believe he tells the truth, so he’s almost certainly lying about the NSA spying on him. But, Marcy Wheeler points out, the NSA only says here that Carlson isn’t being targeted. It’s not saying his communications with a foreign target weren’t surveilled. “Strictly as a hypothetical,” Wheeler writes, “it could be that Carlson is working on another Hunter Biden story involving Ukraine, and the NSA picked up his communications directly with an agent of Russia in Ukraine by targeting that totally legitimate intelligence target. The result would be to incidentally collect Carlson’s communications with said hypothetical Ukrainian target.”

But Carlson is probably lying, and in either case, McCarthy’s insistence that this report from a known liar has to be investigated joins the pantheon of Republican efforts to undercut reality. “Tucker Carlson’s no-evidence allegation has to be investigated immediately” comes at the same time McCarthy is showing no interest in the Trump Justice Department having subpoenaed phone records of Democratic members of Congress. “Tucker Carlson’s no-evidence allegation has to be investigated immediately“ comes as McCarthy, who unsuccessfully pleaded with Trump to call off the mob on Jan. 6, is now so opposed to investigating the attack on the Capitol that he’s threatening the committee assignments of Republicans who agree to serve on the select committee. Carlson is trying to create a distraction, and McCarthy is on fully board with the effort. 

McCarthy is only the minority leader, so he can’t order a full committee investigation. Instead, he’s putting crack investigator Devin Nunes on the case, as ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. Nunes was a beneficiary of the politicization of the Trump Justice Department, which tried to intervene in Nunes’ lawsuit against Twitter to force the unmasking of an imaginary cow. Nunes spent the first Trump impeachment hearings spewing conspiracy theories. All of this means Nunes is the perfect person to represent House Republicans in “investigating” baseless allegations by a Fox News host trying to distract from real issues—but the perfect person in the sense that he will lie relentlessly and feed conspiracy theories.

The top Republican in the House is joining with Fox News on a disinformation campaign, enlisting the (very eager) ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. And they’re doing it to distract from Republican complicity in a violent attack on Congress intended to prevent it from doing its part in the peaceful transition of power. This is a lawless party and political movement.

Prosecutors investigating Giuliani seized wider array of materials than previously disclosed

Oopsies. Looks like the investigation into personal Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani is broader than what was previously reported. A court document unsealed Tuesday revealed that federal prosecutors obtained correspondence from email and iCloud accounts that appear to belong to two former Ukrainian government officials, according to CNN. Additionally, prosecutors seized a cell phone and iPad belonging to a pro-Trump Ukrainian businessman.  

CNN also accessed redacted portions of the court filing by cutting/pasting it into a new document and found that federal prosecutors obtained the "historical and prospective cell site information" of both Giuliani and Victoria Toensing, an attorney who informally advised Donald Trump and aided Giuliani's dirt digging efforts. Investigators executed a search warrant on both attorneys last month.

According to CNN, the Ukrainians involved are former Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko, former head of the Ukrainian Fiscal Service Roman Nasirov, and businessman Alexander Levin.

The court filing came from Joseph Bondy, the defense lawyer for indicted former Giuliani associate Lev Parnas. It contained some juicy revelations, including the fact that federal prosecutors had described materials they obtained starting in late 2019 and extending through last month. Bondy was petitioning the judge in Parnas' case for a status conference on the seized materials, which he believed to be relevant to Parnas' defense. 

But here's the juiciest part of the CNN scoop:

Bondy wrote that the evidence seized "likely includes e-mail, text, and encrypted communications" between Giuliani, Toensing, former President Donald Trump, former Attorney General Bill Barr, "high-level members of the Justice Department, Presidential impeachment attorneys Jay Sekulow, Jane Raskin and others, Senator Lindsey Graham, Congressman Devin Nunes and others, relating to the timing of the arrest and indictment of the defendants as a means to prevent potential disclosures to Congress in the first impeachment inquiry of then-President Donald. J. Trump."

Just to be clear, none of this is verified and even Bondy used the term “likely.” But wow—encrypted communications between Trump, Barr, Sekulow, Graham, and Nunes, potentially related to an effort to silence Parnas and presumably his partner, Igor Fruman, in advance of Trump's first impeachment inquiry. 

Hard to know whether Bondy is right, but any encrypted communications among that cast of characters that proved fruitful for prosecutors would certainly be interesting. 

Republicans are planning a mass attack against Biden using information from pro-Russian agents

In 2016, Donald Trump and his campaign team made more than 100 contacts with Russian agents in what turned out to be a successful effort to plunder information, disseminate propaganda, and ultimately steal an American election. Other Republican officials were certainly involved to some degree—particularly Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who did everything he could to block efforts to make the public aware of Russian interference and damaged election security.

In 2020, Republicans in both House and Senate—having given Trump a free pass to invite foreign interference and approving the whitewashing of Trump’s crimes by Attorney General William Barr—are all on board. That includes Barr, who has all but promised to provide America with a QAnon-sanctioned October surprise. It includes Republican lawmakers like Rep. Devin Nunes, who are sitting on a packet of documents prepared by a pro-Russian official from Ukraine. It includes Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been using the State Department to pile up a stack of unsubstantiated attacks on Joe Biden. Barr, Nunes, and Pompeo are not just sitting on this information: they’re deliberately hiding it, looking for the moment to strike when no one has a chance to see what a baseless conspiracy they’re really pushing.

Devin Nunes has always represented the ragged edge of support for Donald Trump. From the moment he jumped from an Uber and sneaked into the White House in an attempt to derail the Russia investigation, to his stint in front of the House Ethics Committee, Nunes made it clear that his loyalty to Trump exceeded any other responsibility. And when it came to questions about when Nunes would be truthful with his House colleagues, he could not have been more clear: “Never.”

So it should come as no surprise that as the 2020 election approaches, Devin Nunes has been working directly with a pro-Russian Ukrainian lawmaker who previously passed along information through Rudy Giuliani. That lawmaker has been feeding information to Republicans in both the House and Senate. It comes in the form of a “packet” of supposed evidence that backs up Trump and Giuliani’s long-debunked claims about Joe Biden’s relationship to the Ukrainian government.

As CNN reports, Democrats have been aware that Republicans in the House and Senate—including Nunes—were sent a packet of information from pro-Russian Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Derkach in January, in the midst of Donald Trump’s impeachment. But Republicans have refused to discuss what’s in the packet, or even admit that they have it. In closed-door Intelligence Committee hearings, Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York made multiple attempts to get Nunes to answer a simple question. "Is the ranking member prepared to even respond to the question?,” asked Maloney. ”How about it, Mr. Nunes? Did you receive a package from Andrii Derkach or not? And would you share with the committee or not?” Nunes did not respond. “Well,” said Maloney. “I guess this is a case where silence speaks volumes."

As Politico reported, that silence extends to the FBI. After Democratic staff members became aware of the existence of the document packet, they requested information on the contents from the FBI. Not only has there been no information provided, there hasn’t even been a response.

During his Tuesday hearing with the House Judiciary Committee, Attorney General William Barr was just as silent in refusing to share any information collected in the investigation he’s conducted with the assistance of U. S. Attorney John “Bull” Durham. That investigation also includes sharing Ukraine with Guiliani, as well as attempts to arm-twist officials in London, Rome, and Australia into giving Barr additional leverage that can be used to support Trump.

On Friday, The Hill reported that Rep. Eliot Engel has issued a subpoena to another Republican known to have been stacking up information provided by Giuliani and his associates: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “Secretary Pompeo has turned the State Department into an arm of the Trump campaign and he’s not even trying to disguise it,” said Engel. Pompeo has shared information connected to Joe Biden with Senate Republicans, while hiding it from Democrats. However, it’s hard to call the information Pompeo has shared exclusively with Republicans a “packet” … because it’s over 16,000 pages long.

In the next 97 days, the attack on Joe Biden is going to come from William Barr, from Mike Pompeo, from Senate Republicans, and from Republican representatives like Nunes, all of them using information that has not been vetted, or even seen, by anyone outside the GOP. They’re not planning an October surprise: They’re planning a bullshit assault from every direction.

And, just like in 2016, they’re expected to get every single column of The New York Times and every single moment of network news airtime to repeat their claims, unchallenged, in the days right before the election.

Trump’s pardons again make a mockery of Republican claims that he ever cared about corruption

Remember how Republicans spent months insisting that Donald Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine not because he wanted to cheat on the 2020 elections but because he really, really cared about corruption? Even though he never mentioned corruption in his first phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky? Even though the Pentagon certified that Ukraine was fighting corruption and should get the money?

Ha ha ha, yeah, all those claims Republicans made, against all the evidence, that Trump cared about corruption, and what does he do? Well, first, during his own impeachment trial, Trump stood side by side with a world leader charged with corruption to unveil a major foreign policy plan. Now he’s handing out pardons and sentence commutations to a corrupt politician, a corrupt former law enforcement official, a corrupt lobbyist, and a couple corrupt rich guys. So let’s take a stroll down memory lane all the way back a month or two to hear from Republicans about how much Trump cares about corruption.

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“Corruption is not just prevalent in Ukraine. It’s the system. Our president said time out, time out, let’s check out this new guy,” according to Rep. Jim Jordan, during the impeachment inquiry.

”President Trump had good reason to be wary of Ukrainian election meddling against his campaign and of widespread corruption in that country,” said Rep. Devin Nunes.

“When it comes to sending US taxpayer money overseas, the president is focused on burden sharing and corruption,” Trump’s impeachment defense insisted.

Had Trump expressed serious concern about corruption anywhere before he turned his eyes to Ukraine? From Sen. Ron Johnson, “If the subject was Ukraine, he’s expressed his concern about corruption in Ukraine, which everybody understood was endemic―including [Ukrainian] President [Volodymyr] Zelensky, who won. So I haven’t talked to the president about other countries where that might have come up.”

Again and again they told us that Trump cared so much about corruption that he held up nearly $400 million in aid that Congress had appropriated for Ukraine and that the Defense Department had signed off on because of Ukrainian anti-corruption efforts. And then Trump goes ahead and commutes the sentence former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich got for trying to sell an open Senate seat to the highest bidder. He plans to pardon former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik, who committed perjury, tax fraud, and more. 

So it goes. Donald Trump cares about corruption like he cares about anyone not named Donald (or possibly Ivanka) Trump: only when it benefits him to claim he does.

Same House GOP that decried classified briefings boycotts public hearing as ‘publicity’ stunt

The idea that House Republicans were in any way compatible with a committee bearing the word "intelligence" in its name was always a stretch. Apparently, that reality has finally sunk in with the House GOP and its members sitting on the Intelligence Committee, who declared that they would boycott a public committee hearing Wednesday related to developing new methods of intelligence gathering. 

In a letter to House Intelligence chair Adam Schiff, Republican panel members accused Democrats of holding "publicity events" rather than conducting oversight. "Given this Committee's access to highly sensitive information, it is concerning that you prioritize publicity events rather than the more productive work that occurs in the Committee's classified spaces," wrote the panel's ranking member, Rep. Devin Nunes; the ranking member of the Strategic Technologies and Advanced Research Subcommittee, Rep. Chris Stewart; and the six other Republican members of the committee.

Those would be members of the very same GOP caucus that stormed a closed-door Intelligence Committee briefing last fall to review classified information related to the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump. In fact, Rep. Stewart, who had opened the door that allowed a bunch of his unauthorized colleagues and cameras to enter the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), threatened that House Republicans would continue such stunts unless Schiff allowed more transparency. 

“We have written (Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif.) a letter where we’re asking for him to quit restricting our ability to look at the transcripts and a number of other things,” Stewart said after about two dozen of his colleagues had marched through a door that said, “Restricted Area. No public or media access. Cameras or recording devices prohibited without proper authorization.”

But suddenly, the same Republicans who lobbied Schiff for more access and transparency now want to conduct all committee business in “classified spaces” where the “more productive work” happens. 

Really? Republicans fricking held a pizza party complete with cameras and recording devices in that secured area last fall in order to protest the "work that occurs in the committee’s classified spaces." Apparently, now that the impeachment inquiry is over, Republicans want to bury everything in the dark of night so the public will never know what's going on.

The subcommittee's chair, Democratic Rep. Jim Himes, bemoaned the tactics of his GOP counterparts during Wednesday’s hearing and apologized to the panel's witnesses for the lack of GOP participation, according to CNN

"Even as this committee was the epicenter of the polarizing impeachment debate, this committee has always succeeding compartmentalizing the emotions and arguments of impeachment from the critical work we do," Himes said. "Not so today, that Rubicon has been crossed."