While the House Intelligence Committee is spearheading impeachment with its investigation into President Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal, it seems Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California can’t stop obsessing about the Steele Dossier.
According to the Daily Beast, the ranking member of the committee launched into an exchange during the closed impeachment inquiry hearings about the dossier on Thursday with Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union who is at the center of the Ukraine scandal. He was a point person in Trump’s efforts to get the Ukrainians to announce an investigation into the 2016 election as well as former Vice President Joe Biden in exchange for favorable treatment from the White House.
Sondland, the Daily Beast found, was “perplexed” by Nunes’ focus on the dossier, which is itself another matter entirely from the subject of the inquiry. But Nunes has been obsessed for years with the dossier, which was compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele and documented a series of claims, many unproven, about Trump and his aides’ ties to Russia. Though Republicans like Nunes have tried to smear the FBI’s entire Russia investigation and the subsequent work by Special Counsel Robert Mueller by associating it with the dossier, the probe’s final report revealed that the investigation began long before the bureau received Steele’s findings on another basis entirely.
The Daily Beast tried to explain why Nunes might bring up the dossier in the hearing:
The context, according to three sources familiar with the episode, was [Nunes’] effort to explain why President Trump might be “upset” about Ukraine.
Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee that is leading the impeachment probe, said some of the dossier’s contents dealt with Ukraine, and that the Clintons paid for it. Some attendees said it seemed oddly divorced from the topic at hand–namely, whether Trump pressured the Ukrainian government to investigate one of his political opponents.
A Nunes spokesperson told the outlet that he has made similar comments publicly. But apparently, those in the hearing were still baffled.
“It was nutso,” said of the sources told the Daily Beast of Nunes’ exchange. “It was awkward.”