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Separate classified briefing for Nunes and Gowdy raises eyebrows

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor on February 24, 2018 in Maryland.Joshua Roberts / Reuters file

WASHINGTON — When it comes to Congress’ role in the Russia investigation, there’s the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has conducted its work in a cautious and bipartisan manner. Despite their political differences, Senate Intel Chair Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Vice Chair Mark Warner, D-Va., have always been on the same page – at least publicly.

And then there’s the House Intelligence Committee, which has been anything but cautious and bipartisan. That’s especially true of House Intel Chair Devin Nunes, R-Calif. Think of Nunes’ statement last year on unmasking. Or #Releasethememo. Or the House Republicans’ declaration that there was no evidence of collusion with the 2016 Trump campaign — a finding that wasn’t embraced by Senate Intelligence Republicans. (“The issue of collusion is still open,” Burr said last year.)

That brings us to the latest example of Nunes and the House Intelligence Committee acting in bad faith when it comes to the Russia probe. On Tuesday, the White House said that Nunes and Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. – but no Democrats – would get a classified briefing with the Justice Department and intelligence officials regarding that confidential FBI source in the Russia probe. Then after Democrats complained, the Justice Department said it would brief the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” (the top Republican and Democratic intel members from the House and Senate, as well as the congressional leaders of both parties) AFTER the noon ET session for Nunes and Gowdy.

What is going on here? Why do Nunes and Gowdy get a briefing beforehand, especially given Nunes’ past actions in this probe?

This entire exercise doesn’t seem to be on the level, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer argues. “While it's a good thing that the Gang of Eight will be briefed, the separate meeting with a known partisan whose only intent is to undermine the Mueller investigation makes no sense and should be called off. What is the point of the separate briefing if not to cause partisan trouble?”

Did Rosenstein cave? Or is he just buying time for Mueller?

Another question worth asking: Why did Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – who will brief the members of Congress on this confidential source along with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats – allow these meetings in the first place? Remember, this is an ongoing investigation that INVOLVES the president of the United States.

As was discussed on “MTP Daily” yesterday, there are two theories what Rosenstein is doing here: One, he’s caving to Nunes and the White House. Or two, he’s just trying to buy time for the Mueller investigation, given that he knows more about Mueller’s findings (and timetable) than anyone else.

Kushner meets with Mueller, gets permanent security clearance

NBC’s Hallie Jackson and Dartunorro Clark: “Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, has received a permanent security clearance and was recently interviewed for hours by the special counsel's office for a second time, a source familiar with the matter told NBC News on Wednesday… Mark Zaid, a lawyer who regularly practices before government agencies in security clearance adjudications, told NBC News: ‘When agencies are aware of pending criminal investigations, they generally delay adjudication until that individual is cleared. It is not dispositive, but it is reasonable to conclude for now that the special counsel's office has not expressed concerns to the intelligence community that would jeopardize Kushner’s access to classified information.’”

So does it mean Kushner is in the clear of any legal jeopardy from the Mueller probe? It looks like it – at least for now.

North Korea once again threatens to pull out of June 12 summit

“North Korea has renewed its threat to pull out of a summit next month with President Donald Trump, saying it is just as ready to meet in a nuclear confrontation as at the negotiating table,” the AP writes. “Pyongyang's latest salvo follows recent comments by Vice President Mike Pence suggesting the North may end up like Libya if it doesn't move forward with denuclearization.”

“Choe Son Hui, the vice minister of foreign affairs, was quoted Thursday by the North's state-run news agency slamming as ‘ignorant’ and ‘stupid’ comments Pence made in an interview with Fox News that compared North Korea to Libya, saying they showed ‘what a political dummy he is.’ She also questioned whether the summit, scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, would be worthwhile if the remarks reflect Washington's position.”

Are NFL owners only encouraging more protests?

That’s the question we have after the NFL announced that “all players who are on the field when the national anthem is heard before a game must stand — or they can choose to remain in the locker room without penalty,” per NBC News. “Teams will be subject to a fine if a player disobeys, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at a news conference.”

By the way, Trump told “Fox News” that NFL players who don’t stand for the anthem maybe “shouldn’t be in the country.”

“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country,” he said.

Women now make up more than 40 percent of House Dem nominees

As one of us wrote yesterday… “As of last night’s primaries, more than 40 percent of Democratic nominees so far are women, compared to less than 10 percent for Republicans.”

More: “With wins for female House candidates in Kentucky (Amy McGrath in KY-6), Texas (Lizzie Fletcher in TX-7 and Gina Ortiz Jones in TX-23) and also in Georgia, the total number of female House nominees is already up to 72 — with 62 of those being on the Democratic side. To put that in context, as recently as 1990, 69 women overall represented a major party in the general election when all the primary contests were said and done.”

“At 72 nominees so far, we’re past that number already after primaries in only about a dozen states, with the lion’s share left to come in June and August.”