The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes (R-California), reportedly flew to the United Kingdom earlier this month in order to get dirt on Christopher Steele, the ex-MI6 spy who compiled a dossier that suggested President Donald Trump (then a candidate for office) was compromised by his connections to Russia.
Nunes sought to speak with officials in several branches of the U.K.’s intelligence community, including MI5, MI6, and the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). He was denied access to information from all three and granted only a meeting with a U.K. deputy national-security adviser, Madeleine Alessandri, according to reporting from The Atlantic.
It wouldn’t necessarily be unusual for a U.S. House committee chair to make this type of trip, a U.K. official said. In fact, it’s “normal for U.K. intelligence agencies to have meetings with the chairman and members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,” the anonymous source explained.
So why was Nunes denied access to these agencies? He wasn’t allowed to review their documents on Steele because it was believed he was only “trying to stir up a controversy,” another source explained.
This isn’t the first time Nunes has sought dirt on Steele in the ex-spy's home country. Last year, Nunes sent two of his aides to the U.K. in order to try to speak with Steele directly, only to have Steele's lawyer turn the aides away.
There are plenty of reasons why these spy agencies are right to be wary, chief among them that Nunes seems to be more intent on protecting the president’s image rather than conducting actual research. Indeed, Nunes had to step down from leading the House’s investigation on Russian interference in our elections after it was revealed he had shared sensitive documents from that investigation with the White House.
Nunes also authored a memo that questioned aspects of the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling, a document that largely omitted key details that Republicans on the committee decided for some reason to ignore. Democrats wrote their own memo that addressed those concerns.
U.K. spy agencies made the right decision in refusing to meet with Nunes. The representative from California cannot be trusted to handle any sensitive information that spy agencies would ordinarily have shared with him. It was transparent to these agencies that Nunes' fact-finding mission was made on the basis of other reasons besides completing a proper investigation.
Such monumental efforts to discredit Steele should be looked at with skepticism. Is Nunes interested in learning more about the investigation? Or is he just trying to protect Trump by finding dirt on Steele? The latter seems more realistic, given the lawmaker’s history.
Banner/thumbnail image credit: Joshua Roberts/Reuters