Mike Conaway Isn’t an Improvement on Devin Nunes

Do you remember the ironically named Arbusto Energy corporation that George W. Bush ran into the ground in the 1980’s? From 1981 to 1986, the chief financial officer of Arbusto was a former high school football star and personal friend of the future president named Mike Conaway. Conaway would later be the beneficiary of a controversial mid-decade redistricting effort that took place at Tom DeLay’s direction. It carved out a congressional seat that Conaway has occupied since January 3, 2005.

Now, Conaway may be a Bush family kind of guy, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know that the man who savaged Jeb for being “low energy” is still pretty popular with his constituents. So, if you thought that the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Trump’s Russia connections was going to be more robust with Devin Nunes having recused himself, you should think again.

With Nunes on the sidelines, Conaway will be calling the shots as the effective chairman of the investigation. And, as Ryan Lizza reports, the early indications are far from promising.

Even though there is now some bipartisan agreement that Nunes’s description of the intercepts was wildly inaccurate, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee are still preparing to focus on Obama’s national-security team, rather than on Vladimir Putin’s. Last week, Democrats and Republicans finalized their witness lists, and the names tell a tale of two separate investigations. The intelligence source said, “The Democratic list involves all of the characters that you would think it would: Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Carter Page,” speaking of the three Trump campaign officials who have been most closely tied to the Russia investigation. “The Republican list is almost entirely people from the Obama Administration.”

The fake scandal created by Trump and Nunes is not over yet. The first name on the Republican list is Susan Rice.

The Susan Rice gambit has flopped. Everyone on the House Intelligence Committee, from both parties, knows this because they sent a delegation over to Ft. Meade to view the intercepts at NSA headquarters. Everything Nunes and Trump said about them was false.

It is now clear that the scandal was not Rice’s normal review of the intelligence reports but the coördinated effort between the Trump Administration and Nunes to sift through classified information and computer logs that recorded Rice’s unmasking requests, and then leak a highly misleading characterization of those documents, all in an apparent effort to turn Rice, a longtime target of Republicans, into the face of alleged spying against Trump. It was a series of lies to manufacture a fake scandal. Last week, CNN was the first to report that both Democrats and Republicans who reviewed the Nunes material at the N.S.A. said that the documents provided “no evidence that Obama Administration officials did anything unusual or illegal.”

I spoke to two intelligence sources, one who read the entire binder of intercepts and one who was briefed on their contents. “There’s absolutely nothing there,” one source said.

Yet, Conaway is persisting in calling Rice as his star witness.

Ironically, I think George and Jeb would be pleased and quite relieved if Conaway chose to be aggressive in his investigation. But I guess he’s looking out for himself these days rather than cooking books for the Bush family.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.