Hey! Look Over Here — at Devin Nunes

In logic it is called a Red Herring: when a person brings a topic into a conversation that distracts from the original point.  It is a rhetorical strategy often used in politics.  Many people think president Clinton had missiles fired at terrorists in the Sudan in order to distract the public from the news about his affair with Monica Lewinski.  Many are coming to believe this rhetorical device is a go to strategy for Donald Trump.160815-trump-manafort-mbe-432p_2c14550052a5ecc9bf5a45dd50620ac7.nbcnews-fp-360-360

Wednesday March 22nd, 2017, was a big news day.  The Associated Press reported that the former chair of the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort, started receiving ten million dollars a year in 2006 to lobby for the interests of Russia in the United States.  The report includes responses from the White House spokesman Sean Spicer and Paul Manafort.  So the White House knew the story was coming.  Rachel Maddow suggested in her show Wednesday evening the Manafort story helps us understand the extraordinary behavior of representative Devin Nunes, the Chairman of the House Intelligence committee and former member of the Trump transition team.

The Daily Beast reports the night before the news about Manafort broke, Devin Nunes left his staffer behind and disappeared until the next morning.

Hours before the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee announced his shocking claims about surveillance of the Trump transition team on Wednesday morning, he practically disappeared.

Trump_RussiaRep. Devin Nunes was traveling with a senior committee staffer in an Uber on Tuesday evening when he received a communication on his phone, three committee officials and a former national security official with ties to the committee told The Daily Beast. After the message, Nunes left the car abruptly, leaving his own staffer in the dark about his whereabouts.

By the next morning, Nunes hastily announced a press conference. His own aides, up to the most senior level, did not know what their boss planned to say next. Nunes’ choice to keep senior staff out of the loop was highly unusual.

The Republican chairman had a bombshell to drop.

CNN reported on March 27 that Nunes was on the White House grounds the day before his announcement.

Washington (CNN)It has been something of a mystery, the whereabouts of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes on the day before his announcement that he saw information suggesting that communications of then-President-elect Donald Trump and his advisers may have been swept up in surveillance of other foreign nationals.

One source told CNN that Nunes, a California Republican, was seen on the White House grounds the day before his announcement. In a phone interview, Nunes confirmed to CNN that he was on the White House grounds that day — but he said he was not in the White House itself. (Other buildings, including the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, are on the same grounds.)

The bombshell Nunes dropped in his hastily arranged press conference was he claimed to have found evidence that supported president Trump’s claim he had been wiretapped by president Obama.  The Director of the FBI, James Comey, stated on Monday before the house intelligence committee that the FBI and the Justice Department found no evidence to support president Trump’s claim.  The New York Times reported on Wednesday March 22nd,

WASHINGTON — Representative Devin Nunes, the California Republican who is chairman of a House panel investigating Russian interference in the presidential election, may have dealt his own inquiry a fatal blow on Wednesday.642d7ec7387bcce5784590f34cb200e608a060bd

Armed with intelligence that some Republicans said bolstered President Trump’s widely disputed claim of being wiretapped by the Obama administration, Mr. Nunes bypassed Democrats and went directly to the White House. The new information, Mr. Nunes said, showed that American intelligence agencies monitoring foreign officials may have “incidentally” picked up communications of Trump transition team members.

The move angered Democrats who said that Mr. Nunes’s attempt to buttress Mr. Trump’s accusation raised questions about his ability to conduct an impartial bipartisan investigation.

The House Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, issued a challenge, saying that Mr. Nunes had to decide whether he was chairman of an independent investigation or “is going to act as a surrogate of the White House, because he cannot do both.”

Nunes also canceled a public hearing scheduled for the House Intelligence committee.  CNN reports,

(CNN)The House Intelligence Committee chairman and the panel’s top Democrat publicly disagreed Friday over the handling of their investigation into Russian meddling into the US election, coming after the announcement that President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman agreed to testify before the committee.

“Yesterday, the counsel for Paul Manafort contacted the committee yesterday to offer the committee the opportunity to interview his client,” committee chairman Devin Nunes announced during a news conference. “We thank Mr. Manafort for volunteering and encourage others with knowledge of these issues to voluntarily interview with the committee.”

Nunes also announced that the committee is bringing in FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers for a second briefing, this time behind closed doors so that they can provide more information. The committee is also delaying its March 28 hearing, a decision infuriating Democrats on the committee.

“Chairman just cancelled open Intelligence Committee hearing with (former Director of National Intelligence James) Clapper, (former CIA Director John) Brennan and (former deputy Attorney General Sally) Yates in attempt to choke off public info,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee tweeted moment before going to speak to the press Friday morning.

Schiff refused to say whether he thought Nunes should step down from his position, telling reporters, “What’s really involved here is the cancellation of this open hearing and the rest is designed to distract.”

Schiff sees what is going on: much ‘is designed to distract.’  The news media has not spent the week pondering the implications of the AP story about Manafort. There has been no critical examination of how the party of Ronald Reagan which stood up to the Russian bear came to have its platform altered by what appear to be Russian operatives as a part of a counterintelligence program.  Instead, the news media has been discussing Nunes’s bizarre behavior.

This is an example of a Red Herring.  It is a strategy with which Trump is quite familiar.  He first accused president Obama of wiretapping him two days after his attorney general had to recuse himself from any investigations of ties between Russia and the Trump campaign because he failed to disclose meetings with the Russian ambassador.  Hey!  Look at this bright shiny object over here.  The panel on the Morning Joe sees this strategy as being fairly transparent at this point.

The use of the Red Herring as a strategy to defend a president is depicted in the movie Wag the Dog.  If you want to understand the rhetoric coming out of the white house and representative Nunes, you might want to check it out.

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