Rep. Devin Nunes Demolishes The Russian Collusion Delusion
Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee sorts through the media's misinformation campaign at Restoration Weekend.
Editor’s note: Below are the video and transcript to remarks given by Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA 22nd District) at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2017 Restoration Weekend. The event was held Nov. 16th-19th at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida.
Devin Nunes: Thank you all so much. Thank you and thanks for having me and thank you for the warm welcome. I don’t know if Brian is still here. Did Brian walk out? Okay, well, now I know that I can tell this story. I was always afraid to tell Brian this story and I’ll tell him this next week when I see him. But his little joke about the Vice President reminded me of this time, and I’d wanted to tell him, but I didn’t know exactly how to tell him this story because it’s funny. But then again, it’s not because you don’t know how somebody’s going to take it. But I have a little 4-year-old daughter and we were sitting on the House floor. We had just gotten sworn in and I couldn’t help but notice that she kept going like this and I said, “So what are you doing?“ I mean you can tell when your child is just like fixated on something and acting a little different. And I said, “What are you doing?“ – “That man, daddy. That man.“ I said, “What man? What are you talking about?“ – “I saw a cartoon just like it.“ I said, “What are you talking about?“ – “Look at his legs. Look at his legs.“ And she was totally serious. She thought it was like the transformers cartoon. And she said, “I want to get some of those.“ I said, “Don’t say that. Stop talking.“ And for the rest of the time, she was with me for an hour, and she just stared at Brian the whole time. I don’t know how to tell that to Brian, but now I know if the Vice President can bring it up, I think that he would enjoy the story.
But let me just tell you, when you see Brian interact with our colleagues, and he’s exactly right about how disingenuous a lot of our colleagues are, politicians. I think that’s historical by nature, but also the media. But when you see Brian in the room and then when he’s working with the members of Congress, our colleagues, you just look at him and okay, this is just a solid guy. He’s one of those guys, and there’s not too many of them, where you’re like, “Okay, I don’t have to worry about this guy.” This guy is actually going to behave normal, act normal, vote normal. He’s not going to play games. And I’ll you, I mean he’s as solid as you can get in Washington. So, Brian, thank you. I know your constituents are here, but can we give Brian another round of applause?
I was trying to figure out what to tell a group like you guys that pay attention to the news all the time. So I thought of a little trivia question for you this morning as I was preparing. And what I’ll do is, I think I’ll just speak for just a little while and then maybe just take some questions from the audience. I usually find that that’s most valuable to you and also valuable to me, so I know what’s on your mind.
But today is the anniversary – now, if anybody in the media is out there, I don’t know if it’s exactly this day, but it’s roughly in this general timeframe – but this is the first time that a major figure talked about fake news. Now, this is a trivia question. Who was that major figure? Who was the first person to talk about fake news? Trump. Trump. How many of you would guess Donald Trump? So, usually, it’s two-thirds of the people guess Donald Trump. So, the first person was Mark Zuckerberg. The second person was President Obama. President Obama was the first one to talk about the fake news narratives that were out there and how they impacted the election. Now what happened with fake news, Donald Trump saw that and I think the rest of us saw that and said, “Wait a second. You guys are the ones that are fake news.“ And it’s amazing how, in just a year’s time, what happened is finally somebody’s holding the mainstream media to account like they’ve never been held to before. Now, that fake news boomeranged on them. So by the end of November, nobody was buying fake news because basically Donald Trump and all of us who have been listening to fake news for a long time had turned it around on them and said, “No, you guys are the fake news.“ So then, what did they moved to? Russia. Russia.
Now I was not involved – just to give you a little timeline here. As Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, I thought it was important for me not to be involved in any presidential campaign on any side. And to be honest with you, the only guy I really knew well was Marco Rubio from Florida. I knew Jeb Bush a little bit, not well, but knew him. Of course, I knew Senator Cruz, Senator Paul. As the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee what I said is, “Look. I will brief any of you anytime you want.“ I told them, ”Whatever you need, I’ll be ready for you. But I am not going to get involved in this primary until after the convention is over.” Now you wouldn’t think that, if you listened to the mainstream media because you would think that Donald Trump and I are longtime old buddies and I hang out at Mar-a-Lago on the weekends with him. So after the convention, Donald Trump’s team reaches out to me. And I said, “Look. I’ll hold an event for you in California.“ So I hold an event for them in California. We helped them on the West Coast. And these are times when nobody thought Donald Trump was going to win, including me, by the way. And I’ll tell you, this is how I finally figured out that this guy actually has what it takes to win and it was basically because he was fearless. He was fearless. And let me tell you a story.
So he comes into California the night before he’s doing an event in Silicon Valley. So just so you guys all know, I’m not from San Francisco and I’m not from Hollywood, so don’t hold California against me. I’m from basically the part of the country that everybody makes fun of because there’s agriculture, people work with their hands, we grow things, all the things that actually matter for people. And California is not as appreciated as you might think. So I go to Silicon Valley and there’s maybe 30 people, small dinner, and Donald Trump’s there. He’s like, “Oh, I knew you were going to be here,“ acts like we’re old pals. And he says, “Hey, can you come with me? I need you to come with me and talk to me.“ I was like, “Well, what do you mean? Tomorrow at lunch I have you in my district. I have to get home and get ready for this thing. I have this suit, this tie, this is all I have.“ – “No, no, no. I need you to come with me.“ Okay, so he’s just being a nice guy. So about 10 minutes later, he comes up and says, “No, no, no. I really want you to come with me. My plane, I’ve got a nice plane.“ And I was like, “I know you have a nice plane, but I don’t really have time. I have a luncheon. I only have this suit, this tie.“ He’s all, “No, no, no. Just come.“ So then I go to Reince Priebus who was there. I said, “Trump wants me to go with him and talk to him about issues.“ And Priebus says, “Will you please just go with us? We don’t really have anybody else with us. Can you just come and talk to him?“ So normally in campaigns, if you’ve ever been around any presidential campaign, you’ve got an entourage of 100 people or so. So I get on the airplane and, I’m not kidding you, it’s Donald Trump, it’s Priebus, it’s Rudy Giuliani, a couple other guys, his Twitter guy, and that was it on the whole plane other than security. And so I said, “Oh my gosh. I’ve never seen a campaign like this.“ I said, “There is no way in hell this guy’s going to win. The guy is just tweeting from his plane and somehow he’s going to get elected.”
So we talk about things and the next morning have an event. And then he’s like, “Oh, you like my plane?” – ”Yeah, I like your plane.“ So the next morning we’re getting ready to get back on the plane and I’m standing outside just off the ramp and Donald Trump comes up to me. And he says, “What do you think of my tie?“ And right away I thought, oh my God, is this some Donald Trump tie or some damn thing? So, “It’s a nice tie.“ He’s like, “Well, you notice anything about it?“ I said, “No, not really.“ – “It’s the same tie I wore yesterday. I wore it just for you.“ He’s like, “Hey, you have the same suit and tie on you had on yesterday.“ Which was true. But then I thought. I said, “This guy’s actually genuine. He actually did care about me.“ He’s like, “Hey, I have some deodorant on the plane because you probably need some.“ So we get on the plane. We get off the plane and we’re in San Joaquin Valley. And I’m not kidding you, there was probably a thousand people lined up with Donald Trump signs, which was not the case in Silicon Valley and LA. And we get in the car – so it’s one of those Suburbans. So I’m sitting here in the very back and Priebus is here, Giuliani and Donald Trump. And he turns around to me and says, and there’s people around the airport there with signs, He says, “Hey, you think I can win California?“ That was my reaction exactly. And I kind of chuckled a little bit. He’s like, “No, no. I’m serious.“ I’m like, “Oh, shit. He is serious. He really thinks he can win.“ And I said, “Well, no, sir, you’re not going to be able to win.“ And then, “Well, yeah, but look at all these people.“ I said, “Yeah, but you don’t understand.“ I started to try to talk technical talk. He’s like, “Yeah, but look at all these people.“ And Giuliani finally goes, “Donald, would you just listen to this guy? He lives here. You’re not going to win California.“ And then he turns around to me and says, “Yeah, but look,” and he’s getting a little bit upset. Now at this time, remember, he’s at 42 percent in the polls and the Senate’s gone and now we’re going to lose the House of Representatives, so I don’t have a lot of patience for stupidity. So I said, “No, you’re not going to win this state. What are you thinking? You’ve got like 10 states to win.“ And Giuliani’s like, “Yeah, you have got 10 states to win.“ And he’s like, “Okay, yeah, yeah, yeah.“ So it’s like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, we go through all those states, get done with that, okay, yeah, we’ve got to focus on those. And he turns to Rudy Giuliani, “Okay, what about New York. Can I win New York?“ So I can just tell you one thing: later I looked back on that – there was no colluding with Russians, okay? There was absolutely no colluding with Russians.
Donald Trump won because he did it on his own. Because of his instincts and his willingness to go fight on battlegrounds where we had never fought before. That’s why he won. So after he wins, the next day I get a call from the team and they ask if I would be on his transition team. And I will tell you, from that point forward, I was attacked.
And so going back to my earlier story about fake news transitioning to Russian collusion: I knew the intelligence community’s assessment. I was one of the few Americans that had been briefed. I also know how badly the intelligence was on Russia. And, in fact, in Spring of 2016, I came out and said that the biggest intelligence failure since 9⁄11 was our failure to understand Putin’s plans and intentions. Now a few of the conservative publications wrote about it here and there, but the only reason that that lives today is – because I was so upset because I had made that statement, and Clapper, Brennan, all the usual suspects in the White House, said, ”Ah, Chairman of Intelligence Committee, he doesn’t pay attention. He doesn’t know what’s really going on with Russia. Everything we have on Russia, it’s great. There’s no intelligence failure there.“ So nobody would actually pick the story up. So I actually went on CNN in April of 2016 and said it was the biggest intelligence failure since 9⁄11.
Now, why is that important? Well, if you’re in the mainstream media, how is it that you can then, just 8 or 9 months later when the Administration had totally ignored the problem, said we had it all under control; you have the Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee warning them that Putin’s up to no good, Putin’s doing bad things and why aren’t you guys paying attention and our intelligence sucks, quite frankly. And now all of a sudden from November, when they said, “Well, we know that the Russians are involved in our elections and they’re playing games.“ Yes, like they always do. Imagine that. All you have to do is turn on your TV. Probably even in his hotel, there’s a TV station called RT. Have you ever seen it? I mean, that is Russian propaganda. And it’s not only all over the United States, but it’s also all over the world. I mean, any hotel you go to around the world you can see RT in your hotel room. What is it? It’s Russian propaganda. So there’s no question that the Russians are spreading propaganda; that they try to spread evil things or nasty concepts and narratives within the United States and places around the world. This is not new.
Then in December, what changes? So I’m being attacked, okay? In December the Intelligence Committee comes out and says, “Well, no, we actually think the Russians were trying to help Trump.“ Okay. That’s interesting. So they tried the fake news narrative. And then President Obama comes out and orders a new assessment to be done. Then all of a sudden, the assessment in January is that yes, we know that Putin was trying to help Trump. And then, yes, we know all these other things. And then they briefed President Obama and President-Elect Trump on this dossier that was done by a former British Intelligence guy. So I asked questions like, “Well, where did this come from?“ – “Oh, we think some Republicans started it,” this is what FBI says. ”What do you mean, you think Republicans started it? Where did it come from?“ – “Oh, we’re not sure.“ So, of course, my BS-meter is going off. Okay, wait a second here. In a month’s time we’ve changed our assessment that now we know Putin was trying to help Trump. All of a sudden, we have this dossier, none of which is verified, that we don’t even know where the hell it came from, but it’s important enough to brief the President of the United States and the President-Elect. Oh, and then guess what? It gets leaked. It gets leaked. The whole thing gets leaked to the news media and then confirmed by top Obama officials that, yes, the dossier was used in an intelligence assessment.
So, as you all know, at that point, I started to really question what was happening and I was relentlessly attacked. So it’s taken a while, but I think people are finally beginning to realize what actually is happening. We finally discovered, after a lot of work, who paid for the dossier. For those of you who don’t know, it was the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
So with that, and I just wanted to get that off, I’d love to take just a few questions. I know we have a few minutes here, but I’d like to just take a few questions if anybody has them. Yes, sir. I don’t know if we have a mic here, but I think we do.
Audience Member: My name is Tom Patrick. I’m from Florida. I’d like to commend you for what you’re doing and what you’re about and your attitude. Watching Congress in action, always brings to mind the Wizard of Oz. You know the Wizard of Oz had a lion? And the lion needed courage. And the Republicans are just like that lion. They have no courage, except for guys like you.
Devin Nunes: Well, thank you.
Next Speaker: Now, I have one very specific question. Throughout this whole hoop-da-la, we’ve been told 17 agencies agree that the DNC was hacked by the Russians. It is my understanding that the government has never looked at the DNC’s software, work or anything else. It’s all been based on this Crowd Strike. They have one source. It’s like telling me that everybody in this room is willing to support one statement. And the only guy making the statement is me. Why would you believe me? It gets quoted over and over. That 17 intelligence agencies, who are basing their information on one guy who’s not a government employee, but we never tell people that. The only guy who tells people that is Rush Limbaugh. He’s the only guy.
Devin Nunes: Yeah, so let me tell you about – just to clarify. So, it was not 17 agencies that came up with the assessment. It was three. And they love to say it was 17, but it was actually three. And we’re looking into this intelligence that was gathered. Of course, we’re likely going to be attacked because our assessment is not going to be — so here’s the thing. The DNC would not let the government look at their computer. So the point you bring up is one that is really, I think, important for people to understand. But let me tell you something that’s more important than that. Every day in this country, the Russians, the Chinese, probably the Iranians, North Koreans, and other bad actors, are trying to break into anybody who might have some type of political intelligence. So to say that, did the Russians break into the DNC? Well, I’d be embarrassed for the Russians if they didn’t try to break into the DNC. So I’m quite sure they’re almost stating the obvious that Russians broke into the DNC.
By when you try to tie that to whether or not it was – did they actually pull those files and leak those files and all of the things that they’ve tried to string together, it’s tough to prove that. But I think, in the big picture, though, bringing you back to what people have to focus on, is that I’m not sure that there’s any proof whatsoever that the Russians had anything to do with Trump. And one of the things that I said when I just stepped aside from leading the Russian investigation – first of all, I stepped aside because there was never any evidence of Russian collusion. It was total nonsense from the beginning, so it was wasting my time. And secondly, you knew that if I stayed there, they were going to continue to make me the story, the media. And so what I said is, “Look. I’ll put a team together. They’ll run the investigation.“ And guess what? Here we are 7 months later. You know how much evidence we have of Russian collusion? Zero.
Audience Member: Hi, I’m also from California or, as we at the table call it, occupied territory. My question for you is, it’s very discouraging and hugely disappointing to believe that our intelligence agencies have become politicized, but I don’t think that people like myself and anybody who’s paying attention can come to any other conclusion, particularly, you had Clapper, you had Brennan. They’re gone, but what about the people who remain in place? I remember when Nancy Pelosi lied about the CIA. She had claimed that she did not know about enhanced interrogations, yet she was at a meeting where she was informed and the CIA didn’t say anything. Yet if anybody in the Trump Administration comes out, they’re all over it. So, I mean, do you feel that the agency has become overly politicized? It shouldn’t be at all, actually.
Devin Nunes: Let me first say that – so I spent a lot of time overseas visiting men and women across the globe that worked for those 17 agencies that you always hear about. These people do really difficult work and it’s very dangerous work and we should be very thankful for the work that they do. So I see no problem overseas with any of the people that are out there doing the work because they don’t have time to be political. And, a lot of times, they don’t even pay attention to what’s happening back in Washington, back at their headquarters. Now State Department, that’s another story, but we’ll leave that for another day.
In Washington, there’s a lot of problems, without question, and you’re beginning to see that now. And it’s taken our investigation to uncover this. So for a long time, as it related to Russian collusion, where we had that investigation going on, one of the things that came from that was an investigation into the investigators. So we opened up an investigation into the investigators, basically late July or early August, because they had not responded to very simple things like: Do you know who paid for the dossier? Can we possibly get a meeting with these people who were involved in the dossier? So all of these things lead us to open another investigation, that led me to send out the subpoenas that then led to the Fusion bank records. That is how we actually finally found out that this was going on. That they were being paid by the DNC and the Hillary campaign. And we’re still in court. Fusion is still blocking us from getting the rest of their bank records. Now I can’t imagine that they’re in court trying to block us from getting their bank records unless there’s something in those bank records. You guys all agree with that?
So there’s more to come, I will just tell you, on the fight against the people who are supposed to be doing their jobs in Washington. It’s not an easy fight, as you know, because I have to get all of my colleagues to support me in that fight. Because it’s always been, since I’ve been in Washington – and I think this is some of the frustration – that no one ever wants to take on the Executive Branch. Sometimes for good reason. We want to believe that the FBI and DOJ are above board and they’re the nation’s premiere law enforcement agencies or the world’s premier law enforcement agencies. However, I don’t think you can say that everything’s been above board if you look at what has happened over the last year and a half. So we continue to investigate. They’ll be more news on this as we begin to pull back. The more of the onion peel we pull back, the dirtier it becomes. And it’s Congress’s job to get to the bottom of that. But just know, it’s not easy because you have 90 percent of the media who is on the other team. Right? And now with Trump, they’re really on the other team. They’re actually outspoken about being on the other team. So we will get to the bottom of it. There’s a lot to be concerned about. You’re absolutely right. Yes, sir?
Audience Member: Well, you’re doing a remarkable job. My question is this. As Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, are you in a position where you would be allowed to interview Mueller, who obviously, who apparently, I should say, has some relationship to 2009, 2010 when there was a Russian nuclear transaction, because if he actually participated in it and made some decisions relating to it, then he’s has no business investigating anyone else relating to Russia.
Devin Nunes: Yeah. So, as you know, Trey Gowdy, who is now the Chairman of the Oversight Committee, he and I opened up an investigation a few weeks ago into the Uranium One deal. Now, why did we do this? Now, of course with Trey, he’s a former prosecutor, or at least he says he played one on TV, which he really did. I’m a farmer so I just pretty much say, “Okay, look. I know something bad happened here, it’s pretty obvious.“ But Trey wants to very much follow the fact pattern. So what we did in the last couple of weeks, since we announced the investigation – so take you back a few months ago. An informant came to us and said, “I have information for you,” but, basically, and the bottom line was that there was an open FBI investigation into Uranium One or the sale of Uranium One and that he was an informant. But he wouldn’t give us any details. Finally, we came forward and announced the opening of our investigation. And then this informant now is beginning to provide us information. We’ve sent out a bunch of letters asking for information. I think the key point for us, first, to understand is: was there or was there not an investigation open into the sale of Uranium One? Once we figure that out, then we have to determine, of the approval process, not to get in the weeds, but was that done properly?
Now, there’s always a lot of coincidences with the left. So I never believed any of it, especially now, but Trey Goudy, and I think rightfully so, wants to methodically go through this. So the answer to Mueller, if he has involvement in it, we’re going to interview him. I mean, that’s the bottom line. But I will just say, in closing, there’s a lot more to come on this issue that I can’t talk about right now. So we’re not going to give up, but we need your support. We need your help. We need you to make sure your members of Congress know that you care about these issues because it is so easy for members of Congress to get beat up by their local media, by the national media as to well – why are these crazy Republicans going on these witch hunts, why are they disagreeing with 17 intelligence agencies? They have a lot of nice rhetoric, but the problem is that once you get through their rhetoric, the facts don’t match the narrative that they’ve been trying to create.
So thank you all very much for receiving me. Thank you all very much for your support. I look forward to speaking with you later.