Recent reports cite two White House officials for their alleged assistance to Devin Nunes, House Intelligence Committee Chair. Nunes was supposedly provided access to intelligence reports revealing that US intelligence agencies conducted surveillance of President Donald Trump and his related associates.
This report indicates that Nunes might have received help from within the White House in his efforts to back up Trump’s claim of wiretapping by former President Obama. Trump later admitted that he was not wiretapped. Now, this latest revelation shows the President and his associates were actually under US surveillance. Nunes originally referred to information suggesting that Trump may have been wiretapped, but later recanted his statement. If the White House is truly responsible for providing surveillance information to Nunes, it would indicate that Nunes is serving as a defender of Trump than an overseeing body as his position would require. Nunes has directed his committee to probe further into Russian meddling during the US Presidential Election and of possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.
In related news, Republicans from the Senate Intelligence Committee are now treating this matter more seriously. They have launched their own probe in addition to the efforts by the House. A recent Senate Intelligence Committee hearing has revealed new information in regards to Russian interference. While this information is worrying to both Republicans and Democrats alike, Republicans backing Nunes should be particularly concerned.
Clinton Watts, a key witness and senior fellow at the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, relayed information to Senator Marco Rubio, a member of the Intelligence Committee and a primary opponent to Trump, that Rubio was supplied with Russian disinformation. Watts failed to divulge further details on the specifics of information provided. Regardless, later that same day Rubio charged Russian hackers for their unsuccessful cyber attacks on former presidential campaign staff.
Watts received support from other witness testimonies indicating that Russians have been using “active measures”, such as Soviet-era propaganda tactics, with the purpose of spreading fear, disinformation, confusion, and chaos in the United States and other democratic countries.
Popular and highly visible Kremlin propaganda outlets such as RT and Sputnik, have been identified as publishing false news stories and related conspiracy news. Social media was also used by Russian actors to spread the disinformation. The goal of this widespread information was supposedly that Trump would mistakenly retweet or repeat the information to his millions of listeners.
Watts stunned the hearing by stating that the president himself is now a mere cog in the Russian machine. Oklahoma Republican James Lankford asked Watts why these old Russian tactics, which have been in use for an extended period, only now see results with the recent election. Watt replied that the answer was simple and being ignored by those present at the hearing. He explained that President Trump has used these Russian propaganda tactics against his opponents.
Watts went on to cite several sources in support of his claims that Trump had aided Russian efforts. He noted Trump’s campaign using a false story from Sputnik in 2016, Trump’s denial of Russian influence before and after his campaign, his claims of voter fraud, and Trump’s questioning of the citizenship validity of former President Obama. All of these stories had origins from Russian disinformation channels.
Watts concluded with saying that all of this disinformation, when spread through social media channels as popular as Trump’s, provide credibility to otherwise false information. It is still unclear how these revelations will affect the ongoing probe into Russian-Trump connections, but increased probes into Senate Republicans should be expected.