During a news conference on Tuesday, House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) announced his committee is launching a new investigation into Hillary Clinton in particular and the Obama administration in general.
“What we’re here today to announce is an inquiry into Russia’s involvement into the uranium deal that was done several years ago,” Nunes said. “This is just the beginning of this probe. We are not going to jump to any conclusions at this time, but one of the things as you know that we are concerned about is whether or not there was an FBI investigation, was there a DOJ investigation, and if so, why was Congress not informed of this matter.”
Nunes’ announcement comes while the Trump administration refuses to implement new sanctions against Russia that Congress approved in July, for reasons White House officials refuse to disclose. But instead of looking into that, Nunes and other Republicans on his committee are turning their attention to Hillary Clinton.
Fox News reports that in addition to the uranium deal, another new probe launched by Nunes’ committee involves a look into “the Justice Department’s 2016 handling of the Clinton email case.”
Nunes’ announcement of his committee’s new probe into the uranium deal comes less than a week after President Trump insisted it should receive more scrutiny.
But there’s no evidence that Clinton, who served as secretary of state in 2010 when the so-called Uranium One deal was struck — a deal that gave Russia control of one-fifth of the U.S.’s uranium mining capacity — did anything untoward.
Last week, The Hill reported that “[b]efore the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States.” But as the Washington Post has since detailed, there’s no indication that Clinton or any other government official who approved the deal knew about the FBI’s investigation at the time.
Regardless, The Hill’s report provided Nunes with yet another irresistible opportunity to distract from Trump’s Russia scandal by trying to gin up a new one surrounding Obama-era officials.
He’s done this before. In February, Nunes and Senate Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr (R-NC) were enlisted by the White House to help tamp down media reports about the Trump’s campaign contacts with Russia, which were already under investigation at the time.
Nunes and Burr “made calls to news organizations… in attempts to challenge stories about alleged contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives,” the Washington Post reported.
Nunes later secretly to the White House for a briefing on Russia-related intelligence that he then used in to gin up a “scandal” surrounding the Obama administration’s surveillance practices ultimately forced him to temporarily step aside from his committee’s Russia investigation. Ultimately Republicans and Democrats concluded that Susan Rice, the Obama administration official targeted by Nunes, did nothing wrong.
But Nunes didn’t stay out of it for long. In late May, he issued three subpoenas — one each to the FBI, CIA, and NSA — each referencing “unmasking.” Despite there not being a shred of evidence that Obama administration officials did anything wrong, Trump was still hyping the “unmasking” issue as recently as last month.
The new probes into the Obama administration aren’t the only way Nunes is trying to take heat off Trump. As Business Insider reported on Tuesday, Nunes is leading a House Intelligence Committee’s effort to subpoena all of the opposition research firm Fusion GPS’s bank records — the firm which helped put together the infamous intelligence dossier detailing the Trump campaign’s alleged ties with Russian operatives.
Fusion’s lawyers argue that given Nunes’ track record, he shouldn’t be involved in investigations pertaining to Trump and Russia at all.
“Under the present circumstances, Mr. Nunes cannot act alone as chair to authorize and sign subpoenas,” Fusion’s lawyers say, according to Business Insider. “Whether or not Mr. Nunes invoked the precise word ‘recusal,’ any reasonable person reading his April 6, 2017, statement can see that he effectively recused himself and certainly should have done so, given that he fell under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for alleged misconduct tied to this investigation.”