House Democrat Campaign Chief Uses Intelligence Committee Perch to Spread Disinformation

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-NY, speaks during the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence public hearing on the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald J. Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington,DC on November 19, 2019. - President Donald Trump faces more potentially damning testimony in the Ukraine scandal as a …
JACQUELYN MARTIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the organization charged with protecting the House Democrats’ majority, is using a perch he has on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) to spread disinformation to attack his political opponents in the Republican Party.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), the chairman of the DCCC and a HPSCI member, has joined other HPSCI Democrats in attacking Republicans falsely over a package they received last year from a foreign power. Specifically, Maloney is attacking HPSCI’s ranking GOP member Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) over a package he received from a Ukrainian lawmaker with ties to the Kremlin. Maloney’s attacks are based on the premise that Nunes received a package last year with political information from the Russian-tied Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach. Interestingly, Maloney leaves out the key detail which is that Nunes — as Breitbart News previously confirmed— followed proper intelligence community protocols by submitting the package without opening it to the FBI for review of its contents.

In a mid-March MSNBC interview, Maloney floated his attack. “I’m so proud that Chairman Adam Schiff and those of us on the Intelligence Committee wrote into law that the agencies had to issue this report and declassify it because now everyone can see what I was getting excited about,” Maloney told host Nicolle Wallace in March:

The fact is they [the Russians] were so comfortable using people like Devin Nunes that Andrii Derkach, a known Russian asset, sent information to Devin Nunes at the Intelligence Committee. We literally have the package receipt. You’ll recall that what prompted that appearance on your show was that I questioned him during a hearing, an open hearing, about what was in the box — what he received from Andriy Derkach. It was the same information presumably that [Sen.] Ron Johnson [R-WI] was trying to spread around using his position in the Senate, the chairman at that time of the Homeland Security Committee. So it’s extraordinary that Russia’s strategy was to spread disinformation using American media organizations like Fox and OAN and even more alarmingly senior members of the Senate and the U.S. House like Ron Johnson and Devin Nunes in an effort to launder their disinformation in a way that the media might find credible. Luckily, the media, at least most of it and the rest of us, knew what was up and called foul on it. But it’s just an extraordinary statement about how the Republican Party has lost its way that they would somehow talk themselves into becoming — and this is a term of art — useful idiots for the Kremlin, for Vladimir Putin, and let’s not forget about Rudy Giuliani either because all of these people were more than willing to do the bidding of a Russian dictator to try to win an American election. It’s breathtaking.

What Maloney was referencing was the then just-released Intelligence Community (IC) assessment of foreign interference in the 2020 election. That unclassified 10-page report, released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), specifically references Derkach multiple times. The report described Derkach as a “Ukrainian legislator who played a prominent role in Russia’s election influence activities” because “Putin had purview over” his “activities.”

“Derkach has ties to Russian officials as well as Russia’s intelligence services,” the ODNI report stated. On the next page, the report continues by noting that Derkach and others “sought to use prominent U.S. persons and media conduits to launder their narratives to U.S. officials and audiences.”

“These Russian proxies met with and provided materials to Trump administration-linked U.S. persons to advocate for formal investigations; hired a U.S. firm to petition U.S. officials; and attempted to make contact with several senior U.S. officials,” the report says of Derkach and others.

The ODNI report does not mention Nunes by name, but that detail about outreach that Derkach did to U.S. officials seems to reference a previously reported spat that came up last year between Maloney and Nunes about a package that Derkach sent to Nunes and other Republcians. At the time last year, Democrats on the Intelligence Committee leaked to Politico details about the packages’ alleged receipt by Nunes and other GOP lawmakers.

After that initial report, during a closed-door committee meeting, Maloney then pressed Nunes on the contents of the package. The transcript of the meeting was subsequently released, which shows Maloney asking Nunes if he wanted to address the matter. Nunes replied “no.”

“Mr. Chairman, there have been public reports that the minority has received materials from Andrii Derkach, and those materials would not be classified and they would not be prohibited from disclosure,” Maloney said during the end of the meeting:

But, at a minimum, I also understand that majority staff has requested of the minority that they be shared with majority staff so that we might evaluate them independently. And so my question, Mr. Chairman, is of the ranking member, whether he is prepared to disclose to the committee whether he has received materials that have been called into question in the public reports from Andrii Derkach and, if so, whether he is prepared to share them with the rest of the committee.

In response to Maloney’s comments, HPSCI Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) asked Nunes: “Does the ranking member wish to respond?”

Nunes replied to Schiff by simply saying: “No.”

Maloney then gave, according to the transcript, more long-winded remarks about his thoughts on this Derkach package.

“Well, so, Mr. Chairman, for the record, I guess I would request an explanation from the ranking member why he is just not prepared to respond to a simple question whether he has received materials that have been called into question that seem designed to denigrate a former Vice President of the United States, but, at a minimum, to share them with the rest of the committee. I mean, as I understand it, committee staff is in possession of evidence that a package was received,” Maloney followed up. “None of this is classified. So is the ranking member prepared to even respond to the question? How about it, Mr. Nunes? Did you receive a package from Andrii Derkach or not? And would you share with the committee or not? Well, I guess this is a case where silence speaks volumes.”

Nunes did not respond at all to Maloney, according to the committee transcript, remaining silent. Schiff then adjourned the meeting, and within hours the incident leaked again to of all outlets Politico again.

After that leak to Politico, Nunes told Breitbart News last year that Schiff, Maloney, and the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee were engaged in behavior that served the interests of the Kremlin by leaking this stuff to the media and pushing it out there without knowing what actually happened.

“They’re clearly conducting election interference right now, either wittingly or unwittingly on behalf of Vladimir Putin,” Nunes said in an interview with Breitbart News at the time. “Putin doesn’t have to do anything. He doesn’t have to run one real op. But they just run around ‘Russia, Russia, Russia’ all the time. Well, they’re the ones doing it. They’re the ones who went to Russia to get information. Not Republicans. Republicans never went to Russia to get anything. Democrats did. Four years of disinformation, and they’ve been proven wrong all the time, and they’ve turned the committee into a dungeon of conspiracy theories. They don’t even do real work on Intel.”

But here is the ultimate kicker. While Nunes did receive a package from Derkach, he never opened it — he instead followed standard protocols members of the Intelligence Committee are expected to follow. His fellow GOP HPSCI member Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) confirmed to Breitbart News at the time that the package was submitted to the FBI without even being opened.

“Here’s the thing: it’s standard practice that if you get a package from unknown source in a foreign country, it’s probably a good idea to call the FBI and let them handle it and not handle those packages and don’t open them and go, ‘Hey I wonder what this is? I guess it’s Christmas came early this year,’” Crawford told Breitbart News. “No, you follow the protocol, which is you turn that over to the FBI. That’s what happened.”

Crawford also added that he was concerned that Maloney was behaving in a way that was designed to use the Intelligence Committee as a political tool for Democrats to weaponize leaks of selective disinformation published by a willing establishment media:

Crawford added that Maloney seemed to be, at Schiff’s direction, trying to “goad” Nunes and Republicans into some kind of response that would then be weaponized and leaked. “It was mostly trying to goad … particularly Ranking Member Nunes, but also our side writ large, trying to goad us into making a comment,” Crawford said. “The thing is you don’t want to engage. It’s like trolls on social media. They want the attention and so you don’t want to give it to them.”

Then, if they said something, Schiff’s team would turn around and leak it to the press before it came out when the transcript of the meeting would eventually be made public.

“That’s the whole point, and that’s what this committee has devolved into under Schiff’s leadership — or lack of leadership would be the better term,” Crawford said. “It’s purely turned into an oppo research arm for the DCCC and more. This is an important committee, and it has a long history of acting in a bipartisan way, but Schiff has broken that.”

At the time in 2020, Maloney was not the chairman of the DCCC. But, this cycle, he has assumed that position leading Democrat efforts to retain their House majority in the 2022 midterm elections — making his decision to continue to engage in these attacks, even after public confirmation Nunes did everything properly with this, suspect.

Republicans were considering, as Breitbart News reported last year, ethics charges against Maloney for his actions during that closed-door meeting. Those charges never materialized at the time, but now that Maloney is reusing this attack — and using his position on the Intelligence Committee to engage in this political activity using misinformation to attack his political opponents — sources familiar with the matter told Breitbart News that such possible charges are being reexamined. At this stage, Maloney is well aware — because Crawford publicly confirmed it in his Breitbart News interview — that this package went through proper protocols. So, Maloney’s decision to appear on MSNBC and continue to spread such disinformation — for political purposes no less — has members of the Intelligence Committee and more broadly the House concerned he may be abusing his position.

What’s more, apparently Maloney’s spreading of this disinformation has affected the accuracy of the content on networks on which he is spreading it. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, for instance, the day after Maloney appeared with Nicolle Wallace, said on her program about Nunes and the Derkach package: “He has refused to hand it over to the FBI which is what you should do if you get something that is sanctioned by the U.S. as a Russian agent.”

Maddow’s statement is obviously false, as Crawford previously confirmed to Breitbart News that this package was provided to the FBI and was not opened by Nunes.

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