“I don’t know these people,” Nunes said.
Said an incredulous Corn, “You’ve not heard of Carter Page or Roger Stone?”
“No,” Nunes insisted, “I’ve heard of Manafort,” Trump’s former campaign chairman, who was paid handsomely to do work for a pro-Russia faction in Ukraine, and was later replaced by Trump, apparently due to public controversy over those ties.
Was Nunes being honest?
Well, look closer at these people who are supposedly unfamiliar to a man leading an investigation into ties between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. Carter Page was a foreign-policy adviser to Trump when he was a candidate. My colleague Julia Ioffe probed the weird nature of his position in the campaign.
The New York Times reported that he traveled to Moscow to speak at a Russian university prior to the election. And he met with the Russian ambassador during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, despite previously claiming on TV that he had no such meetings. Neither act is a smoking gun proving that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. But anyone investigating the possibility would be incompetent or dishonest if they insisted that they’d never even heard of the man.
(The Senate intelligence committee has heard of him.)
It seems even less likely that Nunes has never heard of Roger Stone, given his long career in Republican politics and frequent media appearances over the years.
Stone is germane to this story because he worked on the Trump campaign and communicated on Twitter with a hacker alleged to have facilitated the leaks of DNC emails.
“One of the president’s close friends and advisers is now acknowledging some contact with a Twitter handle U.S. officials considered a front for Russian intelligence,” CBS reported. “On at least 16 different occasions during the 2016 campaign, Guccifer disclosed Democratic Party data targeting Hillary Clinton and Democratic candidates.” Again, that does not prove coordination with the Trump campaign, or that Guccifer is actually a front for Russian intelligence. For his part, Stone insists that the contact with Guccifer was “innocuous.” But it is absurd for the chair of the House intelligence committee to be unaware of Stone––so absurd that one cannot help but suspect that Nunes is lying. Hence my deeper probing.
On February 14, the New York Times published the article “Trump Campaign Aids Had Repeated Contacts with Russian Intelligence.” It included this paragraph:
The F.B.I. has closely examined at least three other people close to Mr. Trump, although it is unclear if their calls were intercepted. They are Carter Page, a businessman and former foreign policy adviser to the campaign; Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative; and Mr. Flynn.
Note those three names.
The White House then asked key intelligence officials and lawmakers to debunk the article, according to the Washington Post. Nunes was one of them: “Nunes spoke on the record and was subsequently quoted in the Wall Street Journal,” the newspaper reported.