No one can come up a legitimate reason for why Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy are receiving a private briefing on classified documents related to the Russia investigation two hours before they're scheduled to attend a second briefing with Democrats.
Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy, two of Trump’s top congressional allies, will meet with senior intelligence officials Thursday to review classified intelligence related to the Russia investigation in what is being described as an “unprecedented” Republican-only briefing.
The briefing, slated to take place at noon, was thrown together this week after Trump demanded that the Justice Department launch an investigation into his wholly unfounded allegation that the FBI planted a “spy” in his presidential campaign team.
It will be conducted by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. White House chief of staff John Kelly will also attend the briefing, contradicting White House press secretary Sarah Sanders’ statement this week that no one from the White House would be in attendance.
Until Wednesday night, the White House had not planned to include Democrats in the process at all, prompting widespread outcry from both sides of the aisle.
Even Trump’s staunchest allies, like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), said that excluding Democrats risked undermining the credibility of the intelligence briefing.
Responding to the backlash, the White House stumbled through a series of announcements Wednesday night, first saying that a “bipartisan” briefing would be scheduled after the Memorial Day recess.
By late Wednesday night, the White House had moved the “bipartisan” briefing to Thursday at 2 PM, immediately after Nunes and Gowdy are scheduled to be briefed on highly classified information about a confidential FBI informant who reportedly made contact with several Trump campaign members prior to the 2016 election, as well as the intelligence the informant collected.
The second briefing will include the attendees from the first briefing, plus the so-called “Gang of 8,” which includes the Republican and Democratic leaders from the House and Senate as well as the leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees from both parties.
Thus far, no one can explain why Nunes and Gowdy are being granted access to a private briefing ahead of the “bipartisan” briefing, nor why Gowdy — who is not a member of the Gang of 8 — is getting briefed on intelligence before the Gang of 8 and then alongside members of the Gang of 8.
The White House has also failed to explain why it scheduled two separate briefings, instead of gathering Democrats and Republicans together for one briefing, per standard protocol.
Furthermore, it is still unclear if the “bipartisan” briefing will grant lawmakers access to information regarding the FBI informant, which Nunes has demanded to see — despite warnings that his demands were putting lives at risk.
By all appearances, the “bipartisan” meeting looks more like a PR stunt designed to give the impression of fairness and transparency, while still allowing two of Trump’s top allies to view evidence collected by the DOJ on Trump’s campaign, associates, and potentially even Trump himself.
Holding two separate meetings would allow the White House to call the process bipartisan while leaving the door open for Trump’s allies to politicize sensitive intelligence — something that Nunes is quite familiar with.
It is widely suspected that Trump’s congressional allies are using document requests and other demands to help Trump muddy the waters and build momentum for his “spygate” conspiracy theory, as well as to potentially lay the groundwork to fire Rosenstein for failing to comply with Republicans’ increasingly outrageous demands.
The dual briefings on Thursday show just how far Trump’s accomplices are willing to go in their efforts to provide cover for him. The only reason these briefings are happening at all is because Republicans like Nunes and Gowdy helped breathe life into Trump’s conspiracy theory about a “spy” being planted in his campaign.
Sure, members of both parties will be in the same room — but there is absolutely nothing bipartisan about granting a special meeting for two Republicans, and then squeezing in time for everyone else at the end.