Susan Rice
Credit: JoAnn Moravac/Flickr

One of the stories that got pushed aside when Trump decided to bomb an airfield in Syria is the one about Rep. Devin Nunes stepping aside as the leader of the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of the Trump/Russia connections. The obvious explanation for that decision was that the House Ethics Committee had opened an investigation into whether or not he mishandled classified information.

About the same time, Trump and the right wing media managed to shift all the focus onto whether or not former National Security Advisor Susan Rice had done something nefarious or illegal in unmasking Trump associates whose communication with foreign targets had been collected incidentally. Recent reporting from CNN has proven all of that to be another lie.

After a review of the same intelligence reports brought to light by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides have so far found no evidence that Obama administration officials did anything unusual or illegal, multiple sources in both parties tell CNN.

Their private assessment contradicts President Donald Trump’s allegations that former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice broke the law by requesting the “unmasking” of US individuals’ identities. Trump had claimed the matter was a “massive story.”…

One congressional intelligence source described the requests made by Rice as “normal and appropriate” for officials who serve in that role to the president.

At this point, it should surprise no one that Trump has been lying in an attempt to distract us from the real story and cast aspersions on former national security advisor Susan Rice. After all, that is his pattern.

But now that Susan Rice has been cleared of doing anything illegal — much less inappropriate — by both Democrats and Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, it’s time to once again shine the spotlight on what Rep. Nunes and his buddy in the White House Ezra Cohen-Watnick were up to.

As a reminder, we now know that Cohen-Watnick was the one who summoned Nunes to a clandestine meeting at the White House to review the “evidence” he had uncovered that some of Trump’s associates had their communication with foreign targets collected incidentally. Cohen-Watnick had been tasked (probably by his boss Michael Flynn) to review the “unmasking” procedures used during the Obama administration. It is very likely that this was an attempt to uncover what the intelligence community knew about Flynn’s contacts with Russians.

When Cohen-Watnick initially took his findings to the White House counsel’s office, he was told to cease and desist these activities because it was likely illegal given the investigation that is currently underway into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with the Russia.

At that point, Cohen-Watnick decided to do an end-around that cease and desist order and shared the information with Nunes, who went on to talk about it with the press and share it with Trump, but not with his colleagues on the Intelligence Committee.

We learned much of that from an AP report that was published on April 4th, and on April 6th (after having met with Speaker Paul Ryan the previous night), Rep. Nunes stepped down. What I am suggesting is that it wasn’t just the House Ethics Committee investigation that convinced Nunes to step down. It was also an attempt to silence the story about Cohen-Watnick’s activities in the White House.

If that’s the case, it worked. No one is talking about Cohen-Watnick anymore. Instead, they planted the story about Susan Rice and everyone went chasing after that one. Now it’s time to shine the spotlight back where it belongs.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.