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Nunes doesn’t deny leaking private text messages to Fox News, but blames press for reporting it

“I’m not sure if this coverage could possibly get more absurd.”

CREDIT: Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
CREDIT: Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

On Thursday, the New York Times reported that House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) leaked Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Mark Warner’s (D-VA) confidential text messages to Fox News as part of his ongoing effort to discredit the ongoing investigations of the Trump campaign for possible collusion with Russia.

“The Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee were behind the leak of private text messages between the Senate panel’s top Democrat and a Russian-connected lawyer, according to two congressional officials briefed on the matter,” the Times reports. “Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the committee’s Republican chairman, and Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat, were so perturbed by the leak that they demanded a rare meeting with Speaker Paul D. Ryan last month to inform him of their findings. They used the meeting with Mr. Ryan to raise broader concerns about the direction of the House Intelligence Committee under its chairman, Representative Devin Nunes of California, the officials said.”

In a statement provided to the Times, Nunes’ camp didn’t deny leaking the texts to Fox News. Instead, Nunes spokesman Jack Langer attacked the Times for writing about it in the first place.

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“The New York Times, a prominent purveyor of leaks, is highlighting anonymous sources leaking information that accuses Republicans of leaking information,” he said. “I’m not sure if this coverage could possibly get more absurd.”

Nunes’ default response to criticism of the misleading intelligence memo he worked with President Trump to release last month over the objections of the intelligence community has been to attack the press.

That Nunes would leak Warner’s confidential text messages is ironic, given that he spent much of 2017 running interference for Trump by publicly claiming his campaign officials had their privacy violated when their names appeared in intelligence reports. His handling of classified information with respect to the “unmasking” scandal he tried to gin up in tandem with the White House was investigated by the House Intelligence Committee, which cleared him of wrongdoing in December.

While Nunes’ leak bothered Republican Sen. Richard Burr (NC), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, House Speaker Ryan seems disinterested.

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“In his meeting with the senators, Mr. Ryan made clear that he heard their complaints but noted that he did not run the committee himself,” the Times reports.

On Twitter, Trump used Fox News’ story about Warner’s texts to try and discredit him.

But Burr and Senate Intelligence Committee member Marco Rubio (R-FL) both downplayed the significance of the leak and denied it had any impact on their committee’s investigation.