Now You’re Free, Paul Ryan. Fire Devin Nunes.

Paul Ryan is reflecting on his legacy as House speaker in the wake of his announcement that he will not seek re-election this November. Among the things he’s proud of was the recent budget deal to increase defense spending, claiming it will strengthen America’s national security. But money isn’t everything, especially in national security.

Sadly, Ryan has presided over the abrupt destruction of one of Congress’s most important national security functions: intelligence oversight. As the sole person in this country with the ability to rein in or replace the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), Devin Nunes, Ryan bears ultimate responsibility for Nunes’ bizarre and counterproductive behavior.

HPSCI is one of the few remaining “Select” Committees in Congress, meaning the speaker alone picks the committee chair and the membership for the Republicans. (The minority leader does the same for the Democrats.) Under House rules, Continue reading “Now You’re Free, Paul Ryan. Fire Devin Nunes.”

How the House Intel Committee Broke Bad

One committee’s leaders snipe at each other behind closed doors and trash each other openly on television. The other committee’s leaders pride themselves on mutual respect and rarely draw the media into their disagreements, to the extent there are any. One committee chairman has launched a parallel investigation into the FBI and the Department of Justice; the other has plowed ahead with what appears to be a serious look into what happened during the 2016 election. Both committees are run by Republicans. Both have been charged with leading the investigation into Russian meddling in U.S. politics, but their approaches have been radically, alarmingly divergent. Why? What makes the House and Senate intelligence committees—which were set up to improve congressional oversight in the wake of 1960s and 70s-era abuses by the executive branch agencies—such different beasts?

The answer starts with Rep. Devin Nunes, but it doesn’t end there. For nearly Continue reading “How the House Intel Committee Broke Bad”

I’m From America, Mr. President. Where Are *You* From?

“Where are you from?” No, really, where are you from?

The president of the United States reportedly asked these questions of an analyst briefing him on the release of a family held hostage in Pakistan.

Not content with her answers—New York, specifically Manhattan—he persisted. “Where are your people from?”

Finally, he learned that this analyst is of Korean descent. He then turned to the men in the room to ask why “this pretty Korean lady” wasn’t working on North Korea issues.

For many reading this anecdote, it’s seems like another beyond-the-pale example of President Trump’s insensitivity and racism. And yet, for those of us who work in national security and trace our ancestry to Asia, the story is all too familiar.

It’s pervasive. You get asked this all the time. You check your reaction and try to dodge the question as best you can. It’s meant as a Continue reading “I’m From America, Mr. President. Where Are *You* From?”

Trump’s Tweets Are Exactly Why We Need An Investigation

Donald Trump had already been up for over an hour, tweeting about the attorney general and his meetings with the Russians. Clearly, the president was still fuming about Jeff Sessions’ announcement that he was recusing himself from any investigations into Russian interference with the election. But as the sun began to rise over the Florida coast on Saturday morning, he did something extraordinary, even by his standards. In a series of tweets, he accused his predecessor, Barack Obama, of wiretapping Trump Tower during the election.

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

And a few minutes later: “Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to the election? Turned down by a court earlier. A NEW LOW!”

“I’d bet a good lawyer could make Continue reading “Trump’s Tweets Are Exactly Why We Need An Investigation”