When did the FBI investigation into the Trump presidential campaign begin? Was Congress properly briefed at the time?
Just what exactly are the “protodossiers,” and how did they contribute to the development of the now-infamous Steele dossier?
This is American Thought Leaders 🇺🇸, and I’m Jan Jekielek.
Today we sit down with U.S. Congressman Devin Nunes, Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and past committee Chairman.
He heads “Objective Medusa,” the committee’s investigation into the Spygate scandal that yielded the Nunes Memo, an investigation that continues to this day.
Jan Jekielek: Congressman Devin Nunes. Wonderful to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Rep. Devin Nunes: It’s great to be with you. Thank you.
Mr. Jekielek: Objective Medusa. I don’t think this is something a lot of Americans have heard about. It’s featured in Lee Smith’s new book that is all about you and the investigation that you were running.
Rep. Nunes: Still running. It never ends. It’s like Groundhog Day. We do it over and over and over again. They just change the words around the countries. They’ve just swapped out Russia, plopped in Ukraine now.
Mr. Jekielek: Exactly. Let’s talk about impeachment in a moment. Lee Smith, in his new book, describes this as the biggest political scandal in U.S. History. I wanted to see if you agree, and why that might be the case?
Rep. Nunes: When you say the biggest in U.S. history, that’s a big statement. But it clearly is in modern history because you had the intelligence agencies weaponized against a political campaign, unprecedented. So yes, in that sense, in modern history, it definitely is. [I don’t know] where it ranks with [the] Teapot Dome scandal and some of the other scandals in the past. But there’s nobody left alive to be able to assess that.
Mr. Jekielek: Right. In March 2017, you had this pivotal moment in all of this when you discovered this extensive unmasking of American citizens. I’m wondering if you could describe that moment and what happened to you, what changed and the reaction.
Rep. Nunes: We knew right away in January that unmasking was occurring. We knew the major one was the Flynn transcript that was given out. And then you slowly had the ambassador, the Australian prime minister, the Mexican president, plus stories that we were seeing out in the mainstream news media. It was clear that somehow people were getting information from intelligence, what appeared to be intelligence products. We had some sources that had come to us to tell us that this was happening. So, we were able to finally piece it together and I was able to review it.
Once I saw what it was, it was much more than what I expected, and it had nothing to do with Russia. That’s when I came out and said, let’s have a time out here guys. Let’s see what’s going on. The media had no interest in that. Not only were they never interested in the unmasking that occurred, they continue to be against it. They said that I did all kinds of things wrong. They only wanted to know where I got it from. And then they made up a total phony story about how somehow, I was going over to the White House at midnight, which was completely nuts.
Mr. Jekielek: Subsequent to this, the campaign was spied on using national security letters. There’s at least one FISA warrant, at least one undercover informant. You obviously know a bit more about this. Some of this stuff is classified; and all this foreign intelligence gathering. How is it even possible that this type of intelligence gathering could be used on a political campaign?
Rep. Nunes: It shouldn’t be possible. How do we know that these could even be used in this way? I had no idea this was even a possibility. If it was a possibility, then they should come and brief the Gang of Eight, which they did not do. The Gang of Eight, for your listeners, that’s made up of the leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committee, the chair and ranking members and the leaders of both parties. … If you have something that high up, that high level that you’re going to spy on a campaign, you should come and brief us. But the fact of the matter is, John Durham, the U.S. attorney out of Connecticut that the Attorney General has put in charge of this, he’ll ultimately get to the bottom of all this and that’s really what we need. We need a full accounting for everything that happened.
In Lee Smith’s book, I think it gives a good chronology of what we did. Our team, the House Intelligence Committee Republicans, other great Americans that were involved on the Senate side and a few other members of Congress. But I think more importantly, he shows how corrupt and how involved the media was in all of this and I think that’s the key. The key part of Lee’s book is that one thing that’s happened through the Russiagate hoax is that all the little media rats have run off the ship and they’ve exposed themselves. So, I don’t know that we’re ever going to come back to have a media like we’ve had.
Everybody knew the media was left wing, but nobody knew that they were actually activists. And clearly, what was happening was they were taking Fusion GPS product, that they had to know was coming from the Democratic Party or the Clinton campaign. They had to have known it and they continued to spew it out there. So, I would love to know how many of these reporters that were out there have all these dossiers, not just the Steele dossiers, but the breaking news in this book are the protodossiers, which we’ve known about for a while, Lee Smith’s known about for a while, and nobody else knew about this, but there were a whole set of other dossiers. We uncovered what we call the State Department dossiers. There were posts that were involved, Cody Shearer, which was another Clinton operative.
So, it’s clear all of this was being done with the help of the media and then being plugged into the FBI. The only question that you really have is, at what point did this whole Clinton campaign operation with Fusion GPS, what time did it merge with the FBI investigation? Because we know that the FBI investigation did not begin at the end of July and that’s really what Durham needs to get to the bottom of and then figure out who was responsible for all this.
Mr. Jekielek: The big media have offered these different stories. At one point, the Steele dossier seemed to be the origin and it was considered to be legitimate intelligence. Later, supposedly, it was Papadopoulos meeting with Mifsud. That was exactly what you just referred to. How important is the Steele dossier to the origins of Russiagate?
Rep. Nunes: The big question is the Steele dossier, the book I think makes it very clear, Steele was just hired as a salesman, and the same media you have to assume that started to get the Steele dossier in June of 2016, they had already been receiving the other dossiers. So, their gig’s up.
Lee Smith exposes them. We’ll never know for sure whether it was a dozen or two dozen reporters, but it was for sure nearly all the mainstream news agencies. When they got the Steele dossier, for them to go out and portray like they did that this was somehow new information, Steele was credible, they had to have gotten the protodossiers. So, the pre dossiers had nothing to do with Steele and it wasn’t hard to put together that it was just regurgitated garbage that they drugged up and then plugged into the Steele dossier. So, any reporter worth even an ounce, that has an ounce of respectability would’ve said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. I’m not going to take this garbage from you guys, Fusion GPS or Clinton campaign or whoever was putting it out,” but they were in on it and that’s the real exposure here in this book.
Mr. Jekielek: You’re saying that these protodossiers, or what’s in the Steele dossier, is just regurgitated material that was from these protodossiers.
Rep. Nunes: You had the protodossiers first, go into the Steele dossiers, and then you had all these reporters writing on it as if it was new information. It wasn’t, and they had to [have] known it. I don’t know if all of them had the protodossiers and some of them only got the Steele dossiers, but my guess is they were getting all of this because they always use the same reporters. It’s nearly the same reporters in every article throughout the Russiagate hoax, which is now the Ukraine hoax.
Mr. Jekielek: We definitely noticed a lot of repetition there, absolutely. Fusion GPS is very central to all of this. What do you make of the fact that it never appeared even once in the Mueller Report?
Rep. Nunes: Mueller didn’t do a real report. I call it the Mueller dossier because it was a cover-up for everything. Mueller didn’t even get to the bottom of who Joseph Mifsud was, who you brought up earlier. So, let’s just stop. You have zero credibility if you don’t get to the bottom of who Joseph Mifsud [was]. [He’s] the one who supposedly knew about the Clinton emails and told Papadopoulos, which is how they claimed this whole investigation began. You don’t have an ounce of credibility with anybody with any common sense whatsoever because that is where you begin an investigation. Right? How was it that Joseph Mifsud knew about Clinton’s emails? That’s what opens the investigation. So, any credible investigation should have focused on that to determine, was Mifsud actually a Russian agent like James Comey said he was? No, he wasn’t. Because in the Mueller dossier, in the Mueller Report, he just says he has Russian contacts, which there’s millions of Americans who have Russian contacts.
Mr. Jekielek: You’ve pointed out that Mifsud has extensive Western intelligence contacts.
Rep. Nunes: If Mifsud is a Russian agent, like Comey says, then we have a major spy scandal on our hands because Mifsud was involved with our NATO partners. He was a diplomat from Malta. He was at a campus that was teaching FBI agents and others. He was a frequent guest of a State Department nonprofit. He was right here in the U.S. Capital in January 2017. … If Mifsud was a Russian agent, oh my gosh, look at how many FBI agents, State Department folks were compromised in our own government by Joseph Mifsud. It wasn’t just George Papadopoulos. So that’s why it’s very unlikely that he’s a “Russian agent.” That’s why Mueller stopped short of calling him a Russian agent.
Mr. Jekielek: There are these cell phones that have been discovered that are being looked at by Durham now. What do you think is going to come of that?
Rep. Nunes: Anytime I just look at what it is. It’s evidence, right? It’ll be interesting to see what’s on those phones, but I’m sure the FBI will get to the bottom of it and … follow any leads that come from it. But … we need to find out where Mifsud is and have him interviewed. He’s a guy that’s in our investigation. We’d love to interview him. So, if he’s watching this out there somewhere, please come in. And we’d love to have a meeting with you, a recorded transcript with you. The Democrats don’t want you to come in, don’t want Mifsud to come in, but we would like for him to come in so that we could complete our investigation because we still have an ongoing investigation, at least on the Republican side.
Mr. Jekielek: Something that was very interesting. Early on, Buzzfeed ended up publishing the Steele dossier in full and Lee Smith portrays that as being helpful in some ways to your investigation. Do you see it that way?
Rep. Nunes: … Yes, because [now in retrospect,] when that all came out there at the time, it was thrown out there to splash dirt all over the incoming Trump administration to justify their investigation. Remember, you had the Democrats in the House of Representatives who said a lot of outlandish things. But think about this. You had numerous ones reading garbage from these dossiers that they had paid for into the congressional record in the first public hearing with James Comey on this in March of 2017, and it’s psychotic, right? If they didn’t know that that was their own dirt that they had paid for, that their Party had paid for, they’re fools. And the media is in on it, right? So, the media are either fools or they’re in on it. … It’s black or it’s white. You either were in on the scam—and you knew that these were being generated; you knew that there were protodossiers and the Steele dossiers were being sold to dirty up Trump; and you were just willing to regurgitate the garbage because you are essentially an owned asset of the Democratic Party and the far left—or you’re a fool. Think about how foolish they [looked], reading all that garbage into the public record, which now is proven [to be] just made up. It’s very similar to what they’re doing now on the Ukraine hoax.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s jump to that since you mentioned that. As I’ve been watching the development of the impeachment inquiry and reading Lee’s book, it struck me. There’s a lot of parallels.
Rep. Nunes: It’s just 2.0. They just changed the names, but they use the same rhetoric. This is even worse because with the Russia investigation that we led, we came up with no evidence of collusion. Took us about a year to do that. That was a very fair process because we gave the Democrats nearly every witness that they wanted. In fact, … I think two-thirds of the witnesses were theirs. We issued subpoenas for their witnesses. Publicly, we had a process that we follow. We had the rules of the House Intelligence Committee. In this case, they’re not doing any of that. They’re just holding super-secret meetings and they’re not even giving Republicans access to the transcript. … Pelosi has just deemed an impeachment inquiry, which I’ve never seen done. Normally, we have rules that govern this place. Just because you’re the speaker, you’re not the queen. You’re not all powerful. … Every other committee that’s here that rules the House, you have to have a vote on those rules. You have to organize a committee. She just deemed this an impeachment inquiry and here we go again with, they leak out bits of their transcript that they want to leak out of these transcripts.
Mr. Jekielek: I think the Democratic Party leadership says they need secrecy because they don’t want the witnesses to collaborate in their responses. What do you make of that?
Rep. Nunes: That sounds really nice except that why do they leak out on a daily basis to the same journalists who were taking the Steele dossier and the protodossier? So, saying one’s writing about it, how do you explain that? Every day, it’s a new bombshell. So, after a witness comes in, what happens? “That’s the end. It’s the end of Trump. Trump’s terrible.” I can pretty much tell you what’s going to happen after every day. They keep these witnesses in, they bring them in in the morning. They keep them until six o’clock at night so they can all run out there to the sticks, to the mics, to go live on television during prime-time news hours. It’s the same trick they’ve been doing over and over and over again. It’s like the, … I’ve used the Groundhog Day earlier, the old movie. … It’s a great film, but that’s what this is. They run exactly the same play call. It’s always the same. Same reporters bring people in. “Oh, it’s so secret. Oh, we can’t talk about it.” Then something gets leaked and it runs in the New York Times or the Washington Post. At what point do you just get tired of this? So that’s why I just ignore it all and just make fun of them because it’s such a joke. It’s really just a bunch of nitwits. But the only problem with it is it’s dangerous, right? So, at the end of the day, you can make fun of them; you can mock them. But at the end of the day, [what they’re doing is] very dangerous. … They’ve never stopped impeaching, right? They’ve always talked about this from the very beginning that they were going to impeach President Trump. But now, they’ve gotten really sloppy. I will say one thing, getting the FBI involved into the Russia hoax investigation, running all those dossiers, feeding them in, using the news stories to get a FISA warrant, it was a brilliantly laid plan. I will give them that and it was very difficult to unravel it at all, and there’s still more unraveling that has to be done to get to the bottom of what actually happened during the Russia hoax. They basically made the same play call with this Ukraine hoax because they had hit rock bottom. The only problem is that they didn’t have enough time to plan it and they don’t have the FBI or DOJ on their side. I think it’s going to be a long time coming before you see the DOJ and the FBI take a bunch of garbage like what is happening with the Ukraine hoax.
Mr. Jekielek: Speaking of Ukraine, there seems to be more evidence that Ukraine actually interfered in the 2016 election. I want to get your take on that. And are you thinking of investigating this?
Rep. Nunes: We have been. We’re very well aware of what Ukrainian officials had said about the Trump campaign during the election. There’re origins of the Steele dossier, which goes back to the protodossiers, that [supposedly] originated with sources in Ukraine. So, we’ve been trying to unravel that. Why were there so many high-level Ukrainian officials during 2016 that were willing to say these things on the record? Almost [an] unprecedented amount of people [and] officials in a country that was really relying on the United States for their safety. It was the Republican Party that was giving them money that Obama wasn’t giving them. Everybody forgets that. It was us in the House that were insisting on giving the Ukrainians weapons, and Obama would only give them blankets and water bottles, right? Why would you have so many Ukrainian officials out there publicly bashing, for all effective purposes, the Republican Party and our candidate for president? I just dismiss … the whole idea that Rudy Giuliani would be over in Ukraine as if that was some astonishing, out of the norm. It’s totally in the norm. He had every right to be in Ukraine trying to figure out who were the Ukrainians that were giving this dirt to Fusion GPS, and what other Democratic operatives were involved in this scam because there’s other paid Democrats here in this town that were involved in generating this dirt on Trump. I’ll just close it out with this. You had an ambassador; ambassadors are usually really above board. They call them diplomats for a reason because they’re very diplomatic. They’re known for not saying a whole lot, trying to be neutral arbiters and only defending their country. You have the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States that’s relying on the Republican-led Congress to give them money that Obama won’t spend, and you have that ambassador publicly attack the Republican nominee for President in August of 2016. Let that sit in for a while. You wonder why Trump thinks Ukraine’s corrupt? You wonder why Giuliani’s over there trying to get to the bottom of it? Then you find out that Biden’s son is getting some astronomical amount to sit on a board of a company that likely those oligarchs and company were involved in the dirt on Trump. It’s pretty clear to me why Rudy Giuliani was there, and he should be there, probably should have sent more lawyers there.
Mr. Jekielek: I don’t know anyone who knows anything about this, but [the President] mentioned a CrowdStrike server in Ukraine. Do you know anything about this?
Rep. Nunes: I think the point of it is that the … CrowdStrike firm being the one that the DNC called in to try to figure out where the emails were coming from. It’s a little odd that the FBI wasn’t called into the DNC to figure out the hack. There were talks that these hackers had come from somewhere in old Eastern Europe. I don’t have any evidence that they were from Ukraine, but the President clearly must have just thought that and said that on the phone or he could’ve just been talking about, “Hey the origin of this investigation had to do with the servers that the FBI never looked at, only CrowdStrike looked at it,” which I’ve heard him say that publicly numerous times. I think it is an important question. Do you really think there was foreign meddling? [Remember] at the same time, you think there’s foreign meddling that came in and hacked your computers. You are knowingly, or at least some people were knowingly at the DNC and the Clinton campaign, out dirtying up Trump on Russia, started in late 2015 early 2016 all the way through the spring. When all of that’s happening, how is it that if you really are going to freak out when somebody gets into your server, why would you not call in the FBI? Because you’re feeding the dossiers to the FBI, right? You’re generating news stories that are then being used by the FBI to get a FISA warrant. So, none of that adds up. So, what CrowdStrike has to do with Ukraine? I don’t know, but I understand why there’s a question about the server.
Mr. Jekielek: We don’t have a ton of time left, but one of the things that really comes out that I didn’t fully appreciate when I was reading Lee’s book. We’re going to interview him next Saturday, so we’ll do a deep dive into all of his own thinking about this. But it’s just how much you and even your family have been smeared as you dove into this investigation, which seems like the powers that we really didn’t want to happen.
Rep. Nunes: Yeah. All of that didn’t happen on its own. Someone was funding these operations, right? All these phony groups out there that were bringing ethics complaints against me, that didn’t happen out of the blue. Somebody paid for that to happen.
Mr. Jekielek: Was that why you recuse yourself?
Rep. Nunes: I never recused. I never recused despite what the fake media likes to say. What I did is I said, “Fine, you want to run the Russia investigation? You want to continue to smear me? I’m going to stay back. I’m still going to oversee it, but I’ll let the day-to-day be handled by three members and I appointed three members, and they’re the ones that were in charge of all the interviews. It was horrible to have to go through an ethics investigation with zero evidence, and it shows you how corrupt that process is. The most corrupt members of Congress on the Democratic side are some of the ones that were sitting on the Intelligence Committee last Congress. [They] knew they had no evidence and also knew that they had prejudged the case. They had already called for my removal. We didn’t find out until later that these crooked politicians and crooked Congressmen had already called for my removal as Chairman of the Intelligence Committee. It’s beyond corrupt. Ted Deutch has got to be one of the most corrupt members because he’s a lawyer and he should know better and he does know better. He knows you can’t prejudge a case. He knows he’s the ranking member of the Ethics Committee. To have this dirt spun up on me, spun up on my family, and then have corrupt members like Ted Deutch, who knows better, to do this. There are some things that will never be forgotten and those people will have to, at the end of their days, go down in history knowing what they knew, that they targeted an innocent person and an innocent family all for their political goals and ambitions. What I did is I just stepped away from leading the day-to-day of the operation and I just managed it from above, and I’m still issuing the subpoenas. That’s really what happened.
Mr. Jekielek: I see. What has been a toll on your family and your friends and so forth?
Rep. Nunes: The death threats go a little far, right? But we’ve managed to deal with that. The capital police are pretty good when those come about. All of the swamp here is deteriorating into that. … There are no facts. There’s no media for the most part. You’re one of the few people that I do interviews with, right? This is actually our first interview, but I don’t do interviews with the mainstream media. It’s just not worth it because they’re so corrupt also. You would think that they’d want to get to the bottom of who were these firms that were throwing dirt on the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee at the time? They have no interest in that because like the protodossiers, they know exactly who was throwing the dirt. They know exactly who’s behind these kinds of fake nonprofits that were making these allegations. They were willing to take that garbage and just reprint it over and over and over and over again, probably hundreds of millions of times.
Mr. Jekielek: You obviously have this incredible disdain for the mainstream media. You’re taking at least one group, McClatchy, to court, as we speak, and also Twitter. I know you probably can’t say a lot about it, but what is the thinking behind that? What is the impetus? What are you trying to achieve?
Rep. Nunes: Because we have no other option, right? I’ve been slandered and defamed, right? Which is against the law. There are laws that protect us against defamation. I have no other option. I have no way to get off the books, these fake news stories that are out there about me and my family. Unless I bring it to the courts because they refused to retract them. In Twitter’s case, it’s even worse because they’re negligent to the fact. They’re allowing these bot farms, both large and small bot farms and they allowed it to go on knowing that the people behind it are operatives.
Mr. Jekielek: And there’s evidence to that effect.
Rep. Nunes: We know they’re operatives, Twitter knows their operatives, and they refuse to give us the people behind it. So, we’re in court. The judge has already said this is moving forward. They’re refusing to comply with the judge. What I say about Twitter, this is a company that has already lost 20% of its stock value because I think people are realizing that when they advertise on there, it’s a lot of bots, right? So, I think the board members and the executives at Twitter are hiding this from the investors. You’re starting to see that in the ad revenue going down and they’ve had six months to shut all this down and come clean with us and tell us who these political actors are that they’re hiding from the public and from their investors. I think people want to know why you knowingly hid what, one we believe is a smaller political operation; one we believe is a much larger political operation. Twitter knows the names of them, and they ought to come clean and give them to us. That’s why we’re in court. They’re proving our case for us. This is like the definition of negligence is what Twitter and their high-price lawyers have been doing over the last six months. We look forward to a jury trial and they’re going to have to expose all of this. They’re going to be exposed and they’re going to pay for it.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s jump back to Objective Medusa here to finish up. I believe there were eight criminal referrals that came of [inaudible].
Rep. Nunes: Yeah, and we’ve had a few more and the Senate has had some. I think we have given everything that we have. … Most of it is public. There’s some stuff that’s not public, but we’ve briefed the Department of Justice on our concerns and we continue to investigate. Just last Friday, I’m not going to get into it, but we’ve sent additional follow-up letters based on our ongoing investigation into FISA abuse and other matters. So, our investigation continues, despite the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, the fact that they’re not even the Intelligence Committee, for all effective purposes. The Democrats aren’t even participating in anything that has to do with intelligence. We continue to work on this. We try to dig up the truth and as we get it, we’ll continue to make criminal referrals.
Mr. Jekielek: One final question, there’s something that you discovered that I understand is classified, which is described in the book as bad or worse than the use of the Steele dossier to obtain FISA warrants. I would love to know what that is.
Rep. Nunes: I think so would Lee Smith. I think Lee Smith would like to know what it is, too, the author of the book. … It’s possible [that] Horowitz could get to it in his report and it could be declassified. It’s possible, but it all has to do with exculpatory evidence. That’s the issue, which is a big no-no, as most people know of the government withholds exculpatory evidence. I think that’s even worse to some degree than planting dirt for your willing press to then write stories and then you grab the stories and then you take it all to the FISA Court and say, “See. There’s something that was done equally as bad.” So, stay tuned for the Horowitz report, hopefully.
Mr. Jekielek: So, you haven’t seen it.
Rep. Nunes: I know exactly what it is. This is why we’ve asked for it to be declassified. That’s why we want the 20 pages of the FISA declassified, or 302s. There are several items that we’ve made publicly that we want declassified. Hopefully, Horowitz will get most of those declassified.
Mr. Jekielek: And of course, whatever the Brady stuff, any of the exculpatory evidence…
Rep. Nunes: Right, and we believe that will be in the requests that we’ve made to DOJ that Horowitz must have in his report.
Mr. Jekielek: Hopefully sometime very soon. We’ll know more [about] what’s in there. Congressman Nunes, such a pleasure to have you.
Rep. Nunes: Thank you. Pleasure’s all mine.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.