The incoming Trump administration has appointed a Westlands’ lobbyist, David Bernhardt, to head the Interior Department transition team that will make recommendations on policies and personnel.
One of Bernhardt’s stated priorities has been “potential legislation regarding settlement of litigation” – which means the Valadao bill – according to lobbying registration records filed by Bernhardt’s firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. Westlands paid the firm $245,000 last year, records show.
Another Westlands ally, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, has been appointed to the executive committee of Trump’s overall transition team. Nunes and Valadao are also leading a separate effort to secure a sweeping California water bill that steers more irrigation deliveries to farmers, authorizes new reservoirs and ends an ambitious San Joaquin River restoration program. -- Michael Doyle, Sacramento Bee, Nov. 15, 2016
Rep. Devin Nunes, Raver-Visalia, may have successfully screwed up the investigation of Russian cyber interference with the national 2016 General Election, but loyalty to California agribusiness is a long way from loyalty to the Constitution of the United States. The latter is just patriotism -- big sacrifices, little money in that.
National Security? Pshaw!
Nunes is playing for the Temperance Flats Dam and a reservoir behind it that could be called Lake Trump. The corporate agribusiness interests that own him also want the president and Congress to gut the Endangered Species Act and scuttle the San Joaquin River Settlement, which, after 25 years of litigation, allows water to flow in the river bed across the Valley for the first time in 60 years.
Protesters picket, criticize Nunes outside Fresno water speech
A boisterous but peaceful demonstration along Blackstone Avenue greeted Rep. Devin Nunes on Friday as he spoke to a gathering of agricultural lenders about California’s farm water situation.
Nunes, a Republican from Tulare, avoided most of the protesters when he arrived at the TorNino’s Banquets venue by way of a different driveway along Shaw Avenue and slipped quickly into the hall through a rear door without stopping to talk with reporters. They were not allowed inside the hall to hear Nunes address the Ag Lenders Society of California.
Tim Sheehan The Fresno Bee
But missing out on confronting the Tulare Republican did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the more than 300 protesters who formed a noisy, 200-yard line of chants and signs castigating Nunes on a wide array of issues, including his actions as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and an investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election; his support of Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare; President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and for not holding open town hall meetings with constituents in his district.
The crowd began assembling a couple of hours before the scheduled 1 p.m. start of Nunes’ talk. By noon, the group had swelled to more than 100 and continued to grow.
One protester, clad in a dark suit and a Ronald Reagan mask, held a sign that said “Just say no to Russia.” Several picket signs bore messages such as “Recuse or Resign,” a reference to concerns that Nunes compromised the Intelligence Committee investigation through his recent communication with Trump and the White House. Other signs included messages to “Repeal and Replace Devin Nunes” and “Republicans hate government because they’re so bad at it.”
Along with the usual, megaphone-enhanced chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, Devin Nunes has got to go,” the protest also featured a group of about a dozen self-described “raging grannies” who sang a song protesting the proposed EPA budget cuts. A short distance up the block, someone else was blaring the stirring strains of the Russian national anthem on a loudspeaker – a not-so-subtle dig criticizing Nunes’ actions overseeing the Russian election-interference investigation.
Michael Evans, chairman of the Fresno County Democratic Party, said Nunes conducts few public meetings and no town halls in the district, so his appearance Friday was one of the few that he’s made here. “We want to let him to know we’re concerned with the shenanigans he’s carrying out as chair of the House Intelligence Committee,” Evans said. “A lot of people are very concerned. Devin Nunes has embarrassed the district, he’s embarrassed himself, he’s embarrassed the country.”
Suzanne Fortier of Fresno, a self-described fourth generation California farmer, said she came out to protest because she has “very serious” concerns about Nunes.
“He has not been on the right side of the issues as far as I’m concerned for some time,” said Fortier, who farms 40 acres of citrus. “But now with his antics on the Intelligence Committee, I’m very concerned.”
Nunes arrived at the banquet hall ahead of schedule in a silver SUV and spoke for about 45 minutes before hustling out a side door, out of sight of media and protesters. As word spread that Nunes had left the building, the crowd along Blackstone quickly dispersed.
Dr. Joseph Butterweck, a veterinarian from Friant, was in the audience to hear Nunes. Butterweck said that while most of the discussion was about California’s water issues, the congressman spent about 10 to 15 minutes talking about the Russia investigation. “But I wasn’t listening that closely to that particular thing because I didn’t think it was that important anyway,” Butterweck said. He added that Nunes criticized the national news media “because the press wasn’t reporting what actually happened.”
A major theme of the talk involved the proposed Temperance Flat Dam, Butterweck said. “I live up in that area, and they’ve been talking about it for years,” he said. “Physically, it’s not going to hold enough water in reality. But there are other issues that need to get resolved.”
Butterweck said Nunes declared that “California’s got to … do some things, and one is (fixing) the Endangered Species (Act). We’ve got certain species they claim are endangered, and that’s really hurting the water issue.
“Until we resolve that, we can’t really do a whole lot on the water issue,” Butterwick said of Nunes’ comments.
Devin Nunes's Curiously Selective Memory
The chairman of the House intelligence committee, which is investigating Russia’s electoral interference, has made public statements so hard to believe that they verge on disqualifying.
Representative Devin Nunes, a Republican, is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He is therefore leading a key probe into whether or not Donald Trump’s presidential campaign had ties to Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Can an inquiry he leads be trusted?
The skeptics include Evan McMullin, the former CIA operative who launched an independent bid for the presidency last year, billing himself as a conservative alternative to the Republican nominee. He says the House GOP “can't be trusted to investigate Russia & Trump's Kremlin ties,” adding, “a special select committee is needed.” And that mistrust seemed vindicated Tuesday when Nunes responded to a journalist’s question about the Russia investigation with a highly dubious answer.
The journalist was David Corn, a progressive who works at Mother Jones. He asked Nunes about Carter Page and Roger Stone, two figures whose ties to both Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia have piqued widespread interest and media coverage. Nunes insisted that he wasn’t familiar with either man.
“You haven’t heard of Carter Page and all these other people?” Corn asked.
“No,” Nunes said.
“I mean,” Corn replied, “there were about five names mentioned by the Democrats.”
“I don’t know these people,” Nunes said.
Said an incredulous Corn, “You’ve not heard of Carter Page or Roger Stone?”
“No,” Nunes insisted, “I’ve heard of Manafort,” Trump’s former campaign chairman, who was paid handsomely to do work for a pro-Russia faction in Ukraine, and was later replaced by Trump, apparently due to public controversy over those ties.
Was Nunes being honest?
Well, look closer at these people who are supposedly unfamiliar to a man leading an investigation into ties between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. Carter Page was a foreign-policy adviser to Trump when he was a candidate. My colleague Julia Ioffe probed the weird nature of his position in the campaign.
The New York Times reported that he traveled to Moscow to speak at a Russian university prior to the election. And he met with the Russian ambassador during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, despite previously claiming on TV that he had no such meetings. Neither act is a smoking gun proving that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. But anyone investigating the possibility would be incompetent or dishonest if they insisted that they’d never even heard of the man.
(The Senate intelligence committee has heard of him.)
It seems even less likely that Nunes has never heard of Roger Stone, given his long career in Republican politics and frequent media appearances over the years.
Stone is germane to this story because he worked on the Trump campaign and communicated on Twitter with a hacker alleged to have facilitated the leaks of DNC emails.
“One of the president’s close friends and advisers is now acknowledging some contact with a Twitter handle U.S. officials considered a front for Russian intelligence,” CBS reported. “On at least 16 different occasions during the 2016 campaign, Guccifer disclosed Democratic Party data targeting Hillary Clinton and Democratic candidates.” Again, that does not prove coordination with the Trump campaign, or that Guccifer is actually a front for Russian intelligence. For his part, Stone insists that the contact with Guccifer was “innocuous.” But it is absurd for the chair of the House intelligence committee to be unaware of Stone––so absurd that one cannot help but suspect that Nunes is lying. Hence my deeper probing.
On February 14, the New York Times published the article “Trump Campaign Aids Had Repeated Contacts with Russian Intelligence.” It included this paragraph:
The F.B.I. has closely examined at least three other people close to Mr. Trump, although it is unclear if their calls were intercepted. They are Carter Page, a businessman and former foreign policy adviser to the campaign; Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative; and Mr. Flynn.
Note those three names.
The White House then asked key intelligence officials and lawmakers to debunk the article, according to the Washington Post. Nunes was one of them: “Nunes spoke on the record and was subsequently quoted in the Wall Street Journal,” the newspaper reported.
Later, on March 3, during a television interview with a local news affiliate in his district, Nunes was asked about the Russia investigation and a Fresno Bee editorial that called him a “paper tiger” who was not equipped to lead the effort.
In the course of a long, meandering series of answers, Nunes said, “I think where people are getting confused at is, there was a New York Times story where three Americans were named in that story. And I was asked whether or not I was going to bring those people before the committee and ask them questions. And I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ I said we cannot go on witch hunts against the American people just because their name ends up in a newspaper story, because look, we know this, all newspapers are biased … I have to be very careful not to start hunting down Americans and bringing them before the legislative branch of government just because they appeared in a newspaper story as being a friend of some foreign government.”
In other words, far from being unfamiliar with Carter Page and Roger Stone, Nunes apparently concluded weeks ago that it would be improper for his committee to call them to testify, ostensibly because he doesn’t trust the objectivity of the New York Times—this despite the fact that, as best I can tell, the local news interview happened after Page went on live television and admitted to meeting with the Russian ambassador at the RNC, reversing his prior, inaccurate public position.
In any event, Nunes needn’t have ever trusted the New York Times to figure out that both Page and Stone have ties to Russia. What he told his constituents is just not credible.
Now, weeks later, Nunes tells David Corn—and by extension, the American public—that he is flat-out unfamiliar with Page and Stone, both having been subject to massive media attention; attention including mentions in a prominent news article Nunes helped Trump rebut; mentions Nunes alluded to earlier this month.
Given all that, do you trust Nunes to run this investigation honestly?