- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2018

House intelligence committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes’ next target in his quest to expose government surveillance abuses of the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election: Obama-era State Department officials and Clinton family operatives.

With Capitol Hill bracing for the White House to soon release a Democratic rebuttal to Mr. Nunes’ highly publicized memo last week, sources say his staff is preparing up to five more broadsides calling into question the FBI’s and Department of Justice’s handling of the Russian election-meddling investigation.

As stakes mount, some congressional Republicans privately acknowledge that they fear the Democrats’ 10-page rebuttal contains so much sensitive material that President Trump will be accused of censoring the documents when he makes omissions, which he is expected to do.

Adding to the overall Russia-related tension on Thursday, former President George W. Bush, while on an overseas trip, appeared to take a swipe at the partisan bickering in Washington’s multiple investigations.

Addressing a think tank in Abu Dhabi, the Trump critic said that while it was unclear if the Kremlin impacted the overall result of the presidential vote — there was “pretty clear evidence that the Russians meddled.”

Amid the rancor, Mr. Nunes’ sites are dialed in on what he calls the “second phase” of his inquiry, he recently told Fox News.

His first memo said FBI and Justice Department officials misled the nation’s secret surveillance powers while seeking a warrant to monitor the communications of former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page. They did this by misrepresenting former British spy Christopher Steele, the dossier author who opposes Mr. Trump.

The second salvo, sources close to the California Republican tell The Washington Times, will rely on an argument promoted by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican.

The two senators say Clinton family associates fed Mr. Steele accusations against the Trump campaign.

Last month, the senators asked the Justice Department in a letter to consider opening a criminal investigation into Mr. Steele’s relationship with the FBI.

In a heavily redacted, declassified version of the referral, the senators allege an Obama-era State Department special envoy to Libya, Jonathan Winer, received a memo written by a political activist and associate of longtime Clinton associate Sidney Blumenthal, Cody Shearer. Mr. Winer then passed on the information to Mr. Steele.

“It is troubling enough that the Clinton Campaign funded Mr. Steele’s work, but that these Clinton associates were contemporaneously feeding Mr. Steele allegations raises additional concerns about his credibility,” the Grassley-Graham letter reads.

Civil libertarians applauded the first Nunes memo for piercing the veil of secrecy they say has been used to hide wrongdoing in the government’s security agencies.

But Democrats contend that Mr. Nunes purposefully worked to trash the image of the FBI and Justice Department to protect Mr. Trump and undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Several prominent Republicans senators were also lukewarm, including Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Asked why his committee did not craft a similar document, the North Carolina Republican said, “I don’t think there was any need for a memo to be released.”

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, was even more harsh. “Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows,” Mr. McCain said in a statement. “The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests — no party’s, no president’s, only [Russian President] Putin’s.”

As for Democrats on Mr. Nunes’ committee, they want to move back to interviewing witnesses. Asked about the Grassley-Graham letter regarding Mr. Steele’s links with the State Department and Clinton associates, Rep. Eric Swalwell told The Times, “This is just the newest confetti bomb designed to prevent the public from connecting the dots.”

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