This week House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes got his hands on some kind of classified intelligence through unofficial channels, and it spooked him to the point that he broke every protocol – and may have broken his career in the process. Nunes insists someone on the Donald Trump transition team was legally picked up on a wiretap that was targeted at someone else. And it appears the person incidentally surveilled was Vice President Mike Pence.
Based on Nunes’ description, someone on the Trump transition team was picked up while speaking on the phone with someone who was the subject of a FISA warrant. Widespread media reports have long pegged four people in the Trump campaign’s orbit as being under FBI investigation: Michael Flynn, Carter Page, Roger Stone, and Paul Manafort. These are the four who could realistically have been the subject of a judge-issued FISA surveillance warrant.
Of the four men, the only one who is known to have had phone conversations with anyone on the Trump transition team during the transition was Manafort. And the one person Manafort kept calling? Mike Pence (source: Daily Kos. The two have long been aligned; Manafort went to great lengths to ensure Pence was Trump’s running mate. So it appears that Devin Nunes learned this week that Pence had been caught saying something disconcerting on Manafort’s wiretap. And that may explain why Nunes did what he did from there.
It’s not a secret that most Republicans in Congress, including Speaker Paul Ryan, view themselves as being more closely aligned with establishment Republican Mike Pence than with erratic outsider Donald Trump. So if Nunes came across evidence of Pence on a wiretap, it might explain why his first move was to panic and run to Ryan for advice. It would also explain why Nunes was of the belief that Trump himself might not have been aware of it, and felt compelled to take it to him.
This still doesn’t answer the questions of who leaked the classified information to Nunes, or why, or whether Nunes knew at the time who the real source was, or if he’s since figured it out. It appears someone was manipulating him as a useful idiot. But now the more immediate question may be what Mike Pence kept discussing with Russian puppet Paul Manafort during the transition, and if it implicated Pence in Trump’s Russia scandal. We don’t know that answer yet, but the FBI does.