Devin Nunes
Credit: CSIS/Flickr

Only a couple of weeks ago, Republicans cooked up a conspiracy theory about a so-called “secret society” at the FBI that was attempting to bring down the Trump administration. But something that got overlooked during the run-up to the release of the Nunes memo indicates that it was actually a group of Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee that had a secret group meeting to undermine the Mueller investigation. This announcement came on the same day the committee voted to release the memo.

The House Intelligence Committee, led by Republicans, has opened a new investigation into both the Department of Justice and the FBI.

Ranking Member Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told reporters the Democratic minority was informed of the apparently new investigations Monday night “for the first time.”

According to committee rules, the majority has to consult with the minority before opening an investigation.

Schiff said Monday night there was no such consultation.

That article points to a Politico piece from December.

A group of House Republicans has gathered secretly for weeks in the Capitol in an effort to build a case that senior leaders of the Justice Department and FBI improperly — and perhaps criminally — mishandled the contents of a dossier that describes alleged ties between President Donald Trump and Russia, according to four people familiar with their plans.

A subset of the Republican members of the House intelligence committee, led by Chairman Devin Nunes of California, has been quietly working parallel to the committee’s high-profile inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. They haven’t informed Democrats about their plans, but they have consulted with the House’s general counsel…

It’s unclear how many members of the intelligence committee are participating in the side effort. Lawmakers on the full committee interviewed by POLITICO refused to discuss it.

“I don’t talk about what we do behind closed doors,” said Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), who’s leading the intelligence committee’s bipartisan Russia probe. “I’m not going to talk about that,” said Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), another member of the panel.

A congressional aide with knowledge of the meetings said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) was not among the participants.

That last sentence is an interesting addition to the curious case of Trey Gowdy’s sudden retirement. But the members who are involved obviously refused to talk about their secret work taking place behind closed doors—that is, until they were ready to release the memo.

From what Rep. Nunes told Bret Baier on Friday, the group plans to continue their efforts.

Yeah, so this completes just the FISA abuse portion of our investigation. We are in the middle of what I call phase two of our investigation, which involves other departments, specifically the State Department and some of the involvement that they had in this.

Jonathan Swan got a bit more detail about what they’re up to.

Republicans close to Nunes say there could be as many as five additional memos or reports of “wrongdoing.”…

A Republican source briefed on Nunes’ investigations told me some of the work focuses on the activities of two longtime backers of Bill and Hillary Clinton: Sid Blumenthal and controversial activist Cody Shearer. The Guardian has reported that the FBI reviewed a second Trump-Russia dossier which Shearer — an ally of Bill Clinton’s White House back in the ‘90s — put together.

None of this is being conducted out in the open or with even a pretense of attempting to work with Democrats on the committee. Speaker Paul Ryan is obviously content to let Nunes work behind closed doors in order to dig up any dirt that could discredit the special counsel’s investigation (there have also been rumors of White House involvement). I guess you can add “secret committee investigations” to the long list of norms Trump and Republicans are tossing out the window.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.