The Russia Connection

How Many of Devin Nunes’s GOP Colleagues on the Intelligence Committee Will Stand Up for the Accuracy of His Memo? Hint: Not Many

By Quinta Jurecic, Benjamin Wittes
Tuesday, January 23, 2018, 6:11 PM

House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes’s now-famous memo contains allegations of government abuses so shocking that they may be “,” according to Iowa Rep. Steve King. If you listen to Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, the document to criminal prosecutions of government officials.

Nunes himself has stayed relatively quiet on the matter in public. That’s in contrast to his Democratic counterpart, committee vice chairman Adam Schiff, who has the memo as “highly distorted spin” and “ and referencing highly classified materials that most of Republican Intelligence Committee members were forced to acknowledge they had never read.” , the memo is a high-level summary of intelligence available only to the Gang of 8.

Last week, Republicans on the House intelligence committee to make the document available to all members of Congress. Now, they’re gearing up to release the memo to the general public eye. The #ReleaseTheMemo movement has gained the enthusiastic support of right-wing media commentators—none of whom have any idea whether anything in it is true.

One group of people with whom Nunes and his crew don’t want to share the memo is the group of people who know absolutely whether his claims are accurate: the law enforcement and intelligence leadership of the United States. Nunes has to share the document with the FBI and the Justice Department, which means that the public might see the memo before anyone in the organizations that Nunes has accused of wrongdoing have a chance to do so.

All of this suggests—to us anyway—a certain quality control problem. The people who know whether the facts in the memo are true, because they supervise the agencies it deals with, can’t see it. One person who has access to the information Nunes is reporting on says it’s riddled with errors. And the people who are crowing for its release haven’t seen the information it supposedly summarizes.

All of which raises a question: Do even the Republican members of the intelligence committee who are backing Nunes believe his memo?

We were interested in finding out how much support Nunes has on the intelligence committee for his efforts. The committee’s Democrats have made their disdain for the memo public. Among the majority, several have voiced support for the memo’s becoming public. But given that no one on the committee but Nunes and Schiff have seen the underlying intelligence on which the memo is based, how many of Nunes’s colleagues trust his factual conclusions?

With this in mind, we reached out to the offices of every Republican member of the House intelligence committee except Nunes—whose position we already know. We had three questions for each of the twelve representatives:

1) Did he or she vote to make the Nunes memo available to all members of Congress?
2) Does he or she support making the Nunes memo public?
and, most importantly,
3) Does he or she have confidence in the factual accuracy of the claims in the Nunes memo?

One member’s office wrote back right away with a firm answer to our question. With all other offices, we reached out at least once by phone and twice by email.

Most representatives did not respond to our queries. Only two out of twelve voiced clear support for the reliability of the memo: Rick Crawford and Tom Rooney, who answered “yes” to all three questions. Rep. Brad Wenstrup did not directly answer our questions but to an appearance of his on Fox News in which he described the memo as concerning and voiced his support for disclosing it to the public.

One representative, Frank LoBiondo, answered “yes” to the first two questions but conspicuously declined to address whether he trusted the memo’s veracity. Rep. Mike Conaway, who is now leading the committee’s Russia investigation after Nunes’s informal recusal, said that he would vote for the memo’s public release but did not respond to our questions as to whether he had voted for its release to Congress and whether he had confidence in its conclusions.

We’ve included a list below of each representative to whom we reached out, along with their responses. We’ll keep it updated as we hear more.

This list was last updated on January 24th.

Update, January 24th: Rep. Chris Stewart reached out to us to discuss his positions on the memo. We've updated the chart to reflect his answers.

REPRESENTATIVE

VOTED FOR RELEASE TO CONGRESS?

WOULD VOTE FOR PUBLIC RELEASE?

CONFIDENCE IN MEMO?

Mike Conaway

No answer

Yes

No answer

Peter King

No answer

No answer

No answer

Frank LoBiondo

Yes

Yes

No answer

Tom Rooney

Yes

Yes

Yes

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

No answer

No answer

No answer

Michael Turner

No answer

No answer

No answer

Brad Wenstrup

No answer

No direct answer

No direct answer

Chris Stewart

Yes

Yes, with some redactions

Yes

Rick Crawford

Yes

Yes

Yes

Trey Gowdy*

No answer

No answer

No answer

Elise Stefanik

No answer

No answer

No answer

Will Hurd

No answer

No answer

No answer

 

*, Gowdy read the underlying intelligence described in the memo on Nunes's behalf. As noted here, his office did not respond to our repeated queries.